Attendees unhappy with crowded, ‘unorganized' Tioga event


Alissa Famin, 16 gets hit with snowballs at the Town of Tioga Town Center on Friday, Nov. 30, 2012, in Gainesville, Fla. The center brought in 8 tons of snow as well as dancing, Santa, and much more.

Lee Ferinden/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Monday, December 3, 2012 at 9:20 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, December 3, 2012 at 9:20 p.m.

The Tioga Town Center turned 12 tons of water into snow and ice this last Friday as part of a holiday event, but some attendees are expressing concern that the event was crowded and unorganized, creating an unsafe atmosphere for small children.

Levy County resident Patrick Spillane brought his five children to the event, hoping to enjoy the parade, the manufactured snow and other holiday festivities. But Spillane said getting to the event was a hassle in itself.

“When we got there, it was packed. It was crazy; it was like a free-for-all,” he said.

Spillane said the snow area — which measured 2,500 square feet, according to event organizers — was crowded and unsafe.

He said some of the “snow” had fused into ice.

Spillane said he witnessed an older woman and children getting hit in the face with ice balls. He called the scene a battlefield.

“You had to duck. If you look up all you could see were snowballs flying in the air,” he said.

“It just wasn't safe,” he added.

Amanda Moore of Newberry attended the event with her 3-year-old son and husband. The family experienced heavy traffic as they neared the Tioga Town Center and had difficulty finding a parking space.

Moore said she feared for her son's safety as she walked around the crowds. She said she refused to put him on the ground and let him walk because she was afraid he would get trampled.

Moore said the snow area was divided into two sections for different age groups, but she described both sections as small and overrun with people.

“There was no playing in the snow. It was just people standing on top of people,” she said.

Moore said she also saw crying children who had been hit in the face with ice chunks.

“It was too rough and too unorganized to bring our kids to,” Moore said. She added that she would not be attending the event next year.

President of Tioga Town Center Gilbert Levy said event organizers estimated that somewhere between 2,000 and 4,000 people would attend the free event—a number based on past events.

About three times as many actually went, with an estimated 8,000 to 12,000 in attendance, Levy said.

“We all were overwhelmed and humbled by the response from our community to participate,” Levy said.

Levy said the majority of feedback received after the event was positive but some suggestions and concerns have come through regarding logistics and traffic. The majority of the challenges were a result of the unexpected response from the community, he said.

Levy also said only 8 tons of snow were originally planned for the event, but the number got bumped up to 12 tons, the maximum available for the site.

“As we look forward to future events and activities at Tioga Town Center, we will make the necessary adjustments to continue offering great events to accommodate the community's demand for participation while also being mindful of our neighbors,” Levy said.

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