Ice Capades owner skips town; strands performers in Williams Lake
By Erin Hitchcock - Williams Lake Tribune
Published: April 07, 2009 3:00 PM
Updated: April 08, 2009 6:46 AM
The North American tour of the Ice Capades Mystika has been cancelled, as the show’s organizers skipped town today.
The Ice Capades crew and performers left the Stampeder Motel Tuesday afternoon to Vancouver in order to regroup after show creator Niles Garden, president of Garden Family Shows Inc. from Sarasota, Florida, left without paying the crew or performers, leaving many of them without plane tickets back home.
About a dozen performers from the U.S., Poland, Hungary, Finland, France, and Germany dazzled Williams Lake residents at the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex with two shows Monday night.
The group of performers were scheduled to perform in Prince George, Prince Rupert, Alberta, and other places throughout North America.
But at 4 a.m., a letter was pushed under a room door, informing the group the Ice Capades shows are cancelled and investors would be settling accounts at the end of the month. The letter also requested the performers send in their bank information with account numbers so they could receive payment.
“They owe us money,” said performer Gabor Balint, who is from Hungary.
While he and a couple of other performers have plane tickets back home, the tickets may only be valid in June â€” when they were expected to fly home â€” unless they pay extra fees.
Others, however, don’t have tickets at all.
Performer Adrian Grabowska said Niles and his father Richard Garden had given her a flight ticket confirmation number, but when she called the airline, she was told the number was invalid.
Balint said after receiving the note, he tried to talk to Niles, but he then tried to leave.
“He (Niles) called the cops because we wouldn’t let him leave,” Balint said, adding that nothing could be done, so the Gardens left.
Performer Sylvain Longchambon said Niles left in a big yellow Ice Capades truck with all of the props, leaving the Ice Capades performers and crew behind, with no paycheque.
No one from the company was available for comment.
Const. Matt Shearer of the Williams Lake RCMP says the company has apparently gone bankrupt, and as a result is “pulling up the stakes and leaving.”
He says the company is apparently making arrangements for transportation for the performers.
“I haven’t gotten the whole gist of it,” he notes. “From what I gathered, the company is supposed to try to do something for them once they get to Vancouver and Seattle. Whether that happens or not remains to be seen.”
Shearer says there is so far no criminal investigation.
Geoff Paynton, director of recreation services for the City of Williams Lake, said he hadn’t heard about Niles leaving the performers stranded.
But Paynton said he and the Complex had previously been warned about the Garden family.
“I was warned well in advance to make sure we had payment before they hit the ice, which we got,” Paynton said, adding that the complex has heard stories and received several phone calls from other communities who had heard rumours about the company.
“We weren’t going to let them on the ice until they paid us, with a certified cheque or cash, because their reputation precedes them.”
He says the company’s staff collected the ticket money at the door, so he doesn’t know how much the Gardens left with. He notes, however, that the first show saw 300 attendees. Ticket prices, according to the Ice Capades website, were between US$27 and US$57, with two-for-one deals. People either bought their tickets online or at the door for both shows.
He notes a local girl did help collect money, but only for a couple of hours.
“They weren’t too bad to work with when they were here,” Paynton adds. “It was typical promoter stuff.”