Angry allegations of bounced checks, broken promises and failure to respond to complaints continue to swirl around the 2013 Northwest RibFest, organized and promoted by Help Idaho, LLC and Idaho Promotions Group.
The event, June 28-30, 2013 at the Idaho Center in Nampa, Idaho, according to its website, northwestribfest.com, the event is, “…the most exciting family-oriented event of the year.”
That’s just the beginning of a number of unsubstantiated claims made by Kasey Thompson and Randal Nelson leading up to the event. According to numerous webpages and social media posts affiliated with NorthwestRibFest.com, promoteidaho.com and helpidaho.com, the two told vendors that 100,000 people were expected to attend the event. A promotional email sent on June 20, 2013 by Northwest Ribfest from email address email@example.com, said, “The largest attended event of the year returns June 27th - June 30th to Idaho Center Amphitheater Nampa, Idaho.”
Better Business Bureau’s President/CEO Dale Dixon called and left a voicemail on Kasey Thompson’s personal cellphone on Wednesday, July 10, saying he had several questions related to Northwest RibFest 2013. While Thompson did not return the call, his associate, Randal Nelson of Help Idaho spoke with Dixon, answering a number of questions.
The following sentences of the June 20th email read: “Last year in just 2 days, the Northwest Ribfest had over 50,000 attendees. This year, with an anticipated attendance of over 100,000, the festival has been expanded to 4 days and will be bringing in the Top 10 BBQ teams from around THE WORLD!” No substantiation was provided in the email for “Largest attended event,” or “…anticipated attendance of over 100,000.”
To provide context to the claims, the Western Idaho Fair, in existence since 1897, which spans 10 days, attracts about 250,000 people. The God and Country Festival, held Wednesday, July 3, 2013, at the Idaho Center outdoor amphitheater attracted 11,000 people according to organizers. Temperatures that afternoon and evening peaked at 99 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.
Northwest RibFest 2013 participants say no more than 3-4,000 people attended the event over the four days. RibFest vendors say organizers blamed lack of attendance on hot weather. In a phone conversation on Thursday, July 11, Help Idaho’s Randal Nelson told BBB that a late move from Meridian to the Idaho Center, lack of ribs for public consumption at the 2012 event and high temperatures were reasons for the low attendance. Nelson estimated attendance at 10,000, based on an Idaho Center car count of 2,851.
A vendor list, obtained from organizers, shows no “BBQ team” from outside the U.S. attended. Better Business Bureau identified teams from Arkansas and Texas attending the event. Dallas Green, Cowboys BBQ, Weatherford, Texas , said: "It was the worst experience I've ever had. I was manipulated and lied to." Mr. Green says he lost several thousand dollars due to the event not being what was promised.
Nelson said, “I’m confused on that,” in response to Dixon reading Green’s statement. Nelson said he wanted to speak to Green about his experience.
According to a document titled 2013 Ribfest Rules, in the vendor section of northwestribfest.com, the event was sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS). KCBS Executive Director Carolyn Wells said Northwest RibFest 2013 was not sanctioned by the organization and she was starting the process of sending a cease and desist letter to organizers.
The same document also states more than $10,000 dollars in prizes and trophies to be awarded in multiple categories. “Best Booth Contest,” “Sauce Contest,” “Dessert Contest” and an “Anything Goes” contest were described in the rules document. Better Business Bureau found no evidence of contest judging or prize money being delivered as promised. Nelson confirmed no prizes were awarded, but said trophies were bought.
Numerous references to 2012 dates are made in the 2013 document. Nelson said the document was old and had been contradicted several times in subsequent communications sent to vendors.
When asked if a logical person reading the document would be led to believe it was a current document based on the front page text of, “2013 Northwest RibFest,” and “June 28 – June 30, 2013” Nelson agreed. He said he would look into the reason the document was still available on the northwestribfest.com website as late as July 11, 2013.
A $25,000 fishing derby associated with Northwest RibFest 2013 is described at promoteidaho.com. Attendees and vendors report no fishing derby took place.
Nelson said there was no fishing derby due to the venue change to the Idaho Center. He said an insurance policy purchased to pay a potential winner was canceled.
Then, on the last day of the event, an email was sent to vendors claiming Promote Idaho and Help Idaho budgeted $130,000 for the show: “Our hopes were to really push attendance even higher this year from last year, as we increased our show budget from $45,000 to $130,000.”
On the final day of the event, Sunday, June 30, 2013, vendors started calling BBB CEO Dale Dixon to complain about their experience.
In total, ten complaints have been filed with BBB as of July 11, 2013. Text of the complaints can be read by clicking the complaint tab at http://www.bbb.org/boise/business-reviews/event-planners/idaho-promotions-group-llc-in-eagle-id-1000015561. The complaints have since been turned over to Kasey Thompson and Randal Nelson with a request to respond to BBB.
Help Idaho, LLC contracted with Greg Burns, Brand Entertainment Agency, to hire Ty Herndon, Billy Dean, Journey Unauthorized and Led Zeppelin Live to perform at the event. Burns told Dixon on July 10, 2013, a check written to Ty Herndon from Help Idaho the night of the performance at the Idaho Center was returned for insufficient funds. Burns said based on that he expected checks written to the other performers to be returned.
Chase Coles, with the band “The Forgotten” from Emmett, Idaho, contacted BBB to report a check issued to the band, from Help Idaho, for its performance at Northwest RibFest 2013 was returned for insufficient funds.
“Seriously?!” Nelson said in response to the news. He continued by saying he would immediately contact his bank to remedy the insufficient funds.
Numerous Northwest RibFest 2013 vendors report to BBB signing agreements to participate in an upcoming Chilifest produced and promoted by Idaho Promotions Group. Vendors say the event is scheduled for August 8-10, 2013. An email dated June 20, 2013 from Kasey Thompson showed, “Also, if you have not signed up for the 2013 Northwest Chilifest (August 8-10) we recommend you do so now. The entertainment for this show is bigger then Idaho has ever seen AND you get an automatic $100 discount for being in Ribfest.”
In an email obtained from a vendor dated Friday, May 3, 2013, from an Idaho Promotions Group, Inc. employee read: “The Northwest Chilifest August 8, 9, and 10. Also at Kleiner Park in Meridian. We have Warrant, Great White, and Collin Raye contracted to perform free for the public. A chili cookoff competition that anyone can enter with a grand prize of $10k. Much more being planned and will be released soon. This was just announced. (We anticipate over 120k people between the Ribfest and Chilifest).”
Greg Burns, Brand Entertainment Agency, confirmed he had spoken with Kasey Thompson about bringing Collin Raye to the event but did not have a signed contract as of July 10.
Many vendors are demanding a refund of fees paid for the Chilifest, saying they have no interest in participating after the RibFest experience. The same vendors report demands for refund are unanswered. Nelson said Help Idaho has no affiliation with Chilifest.
BBB could not find a Chilifest listing or description on northwestribfest.com, promoteidaho.com or helpidaho.com.
On Thursday, July 11, BBB received a phone call from Jack McGahee, Advanced Home Health Care, stating his credit card had been charged a $250 early exit fee by Knock Out Promotions. McGahee said he did not leave the event early. Nelson confirmed that vendors who left early would be charged a $250 fee per the event contract. Knock Out Promotions lists Kasey Thompson as its registered agent according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
Kasey Thompson and/or affiliated companies Knockout Promotions and Idaho Promotions Group are promoting the following upcoming events: XFS #62 - "Anarchy", July 12, 2013 CenturyLink Arena and 2013 Boise Wedding Show, October 5, 6, 2013 at CenturyLink Arena.
Better Business Bureau encourages potential participants in any event to fully investigate the promoters and affiliated companies. It is always a good practice to have all agreements in writing and signed by both parties prior to making payment.