A mother and daughter are picking up the pieces after the Winter Wonderland fiasco put their business in jeopardy.
Sarah and Amelia Eacope run the Lollipop Girls mobile sweet shop as a way to make money for the Papworth Trust charity, which runs youth clubs for disabled youngsters, and had hoped to raise between £2,000 to £3,000.
Mrs Eacope said the business invested about £3,000 in stock and an extra candyfloss machine to keep up with demand after being told a predicted 20,000 people would visit the wonderland. She said the company was now in debt.
She added: “We put a lot of planning into this to make it festive and extra special. The money is everything I’ve got. It wasn’t just for us, I thought we could make a lot for the Papworth Trust.”
Amelia, 12, who has cerebral palsy, is devastated about the impact the cancellation has had on her business and fundraising activities, but the pair are now working round the clock to sell their stock in other ways.
Mrs Eacope said: “While Facebook has been blamed for the wonderland being cancelled, it has been amazing for us. Word is getting out and people are coming forward with orders.”
The couple, have started posting out online orders and have been invited to set up their stall at other events.
The Winter Wonderland Milton Keynes event was cancelled after just one day. Its website promised ice skating, a Santa’s grotto, and reindeer, along with other quality attractions. What people found was a small plastic ice rink, a skinny Santa in a cheap costume and two reindeer in a pen, set in a muddy park.
Mrs Eacope said: “I saw elves smoking outside the tents, the Santa in what looked like a pound shop suit and reindeers without any horns that the children couldn’t even get near.”
Organiser Lorenzo Franco, who lives in Bedford, has since apologised to visitors for the fiasco and says he has also apologised to stall holders.
He said: “I am very sorry to disappoint people. It was not my intention. It was meant to be a family fun event. I have apologised to Amelia in person and to other stall holders. We set out to raise money for the charity and failed in doing that.”
Mr Franco, who runs a catering business in Bedford, says he is now “carrying on with what I do best”.
A spokesman for the Papworth Trust said: “We are sorry to hear about people’s experiences at Winter Wonderland MK. We were concerned to hear the public’s feedback on the opening day, and we decided to withdraw our volunteers and our association with the event.
“As the benefiting charity, we were hoping that this event would raise at least £7,000 for our work helping disabled and older people. Our focus now is on fundraising to replace that money.”