‘A complete disgrace’ - Families hit out at ‘chaotic’ Drive-Thru Santa's Grotto
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Families have demanded organisers issue refunds over ‘chaotic’ traffic delays and a festive disappointment at what is billed as Norfolk’s first drive-thru Santa’s grotto.
The attraction in the grounds of Taverham Hall, just outside Norwich, is billed as a way to experience a visit to see Santa while social distancing.
Visitors were promised a drive into a festive grotto featuring a cast of 20 actor-performers including popular locals entertainers including Norfolk-based international performer Jack Ireland.
Families in their cars follow a trail featuring 700 lighting effects, 3km of fairy lights, and “huge amounts of festive magic” to see Santa.
However disappointed families who attended the opening night on Friday claimed the reality failed to live up to fairy tale promises with many unhappy about the organisation of the event and long traffic delays.
Some are demanding the organisers refund unhappy customers.
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Matt Keen said his family had paid £60 to book a 6pm slot and arrived early but eventually turned around after queuing an hour and a half.
He said: “A marshall came past and said people had been waiting for two hours and that it would be another 20-30 minutes just to get to the entrance then about 30minutes to go through the event.
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“I tried to call the event number to confirm how long the wait would be but there was no answer. My daughter was so upset she just wanted to go home to bed so we turned round without even getting near the entrance.”
Organisers Norwich Christmas admitted interest in the event, coupled with the nearby Winter Wonderland festivities at Taverham Garden Centre, had led to congestion and urged future visitors to arrive via Sandy Lane and not St Edmunds Church.
Other visitors were disappointed by the quality of the overall experience and gifts given to children and said the live-action entertainers were more suitable for a Halloween event than Christmas.
Jenny Yaxley, whose family had waited an hour and 20 minutes to get in, said: ““I honestly thought it seemed more Halloween than Christmas.
“A few ‘elves’ were at the bottom of the drive. Then the big finale - the freakiest looking ‘Father Christmas’.
“We had four very disappointed children who had literally been counting down the days.
“Such a shame as they had the potential there to do something amazing. They failed miserably.”
Marian Hardy said: “The entertainers are very few and very poor. Clearly a few students who aren’t specialising in drama.
“It was awful. My four-year-old was in tears over Scrooge and the last thing she said tonight when I put her to bed was he won’t get me will he? From a child who’s never had a nightmare.”
Louise Cooper who posted on Facebook said: “It was terrible. The traffic was chaos, once you were in it was hilariously rubbish. You would be better off just driving around looking at lights in peoples gardens.”
Another visitor added: “To say I’m absolutely gutted is an understatement. I spent £55 plus a fee for a drive-through that sounded amazing, especially after this awful year.
“We waited from 5pm to get in. We didn’t get in until 7pm.
“As for Santa I know the big red man is getting on now but my son told him his name four times and was shouting it through the window and him and his helpers still got it wrong.
“We left with a crying five-year-old who has been waiting for his surprise for two days.”
Charlotte Riches said: “The organisation of this event was and is a complete disgrace. What is meant to be a fun magical event was full of stress just trying to get in, we were told that they had booked 500 cars per 15 min time slot.”
However not everyone was disappointed. Ashley Beard, who posted pictures and video of the event on Facebook, said it was an “amazing display”, adding that “the kids loved it”.
Ollie George, who is producing the trail for We Make Events, said: “A lot is happening in Taverham in the run-up to Christmas and we are delighted so many people are visiting.
“Equally we want to avoid traffic issues and so we are asking everyone who visits from Saturday December 19 onwards to take our preferred route.
“This will help speed up entry to the attraction and ensure you can enjoy the festive Drive-Thru experience with minimal delay while also easing traffic flows around the area.”
The attraction is open daily until Christmas Eve.