Local Disney Promotional Event a Nightmare

Update: Some news video of the event posted on an Emily Osment fan site.

It’s no secret that Disney has a big hit on their hands with Hannah Montana. Not only is there Miley Cyrus with her platinum albaums as Hannah Montana and as her self, but there are other stars who are nearly as popular. Take co-star Emily Osment for instance, announce an autograph session will be held at the local mall and thousands of adoring fans and their families will show up. Sometimes things get out of control.

This story in the Times-Tribune just hints at the horror described in a story submitted to me earlier today. If you were at the Steamtown Mall located in Scranton Pennsylvania, I’d love to hear if your version of the events match this womans.

Parents who were desperate for their children to meet Miss Osment began
an almost animalistic ritual of pushing and shoving children that had
been waiting since the wee  hours of the morning.. I watched a small
child in front of us almost be trampled, if it not for her mother and
several other mothers…I’m sure she would have been.

The full letter is below the cut.

Disney’s motto of being the most Magical Place on Earth certainly does not apply to their local promotional events for kids, it’s more of a nightmare than anything.

97 BHT our local radio station announced they would be having Emily Osment from Hannah Montana for a day of pictures and autographs at the Steamtown Mall located in Scranton Pennsylvania. I’m sure every pre-teen when they heard this announcement started making plans with their parents as my daughter did with me. After much hesitation for a day or two I agreed to take her to this event along with my younger daughter.

A day out with my 2 young daughters (11 years old and 4 years old) proved to  be a dangerous event. Due to the lack of organization on behalf of the Mall at Steamtown, Disney Channel and 97 BHT…as promoted on the Steamtown web site, "come for a day of fun the kids will talk about all year!", well this will definitely be something my daughter will talk about for a long time.

Arriving early as other parents did with their young children, approximately 100 kids ahead of us that arrived at 6am and we arrived at approximately 6:45am it proved to be a day that hopefully these children would remember for awhile, well let me tell you as a parent I will remember it. As we sat in the mall, parents and children began to bond and talk about why they arrived their so early. Of course for the children, it was their chance to meet a star that they admired. For the parents, it was to spend a day with their child and hopefully fulfilling a dream for them.

Well that dream for some children and adults alike quickly turned. The star arrived about 40 minutes late…which, hey she’s a star..things happen and plus she’s a kid, can we really hold her accountable. This is a lot of pressure for a young kid to see the large amount of adoring fans that turned out to meet her.

The VIP’s were in line first to be signed before the guests who had arrived at 6am  were allowed to make their way through the line. About  halfway through the event, an announcement was made that Miss Osment would be leaving at 4pm instead of the advertised 5pm, this is when the ‘carnage’ of the day had taken over. Parents who were desperate for their children to meet Miss Osment began an almost animalistic ritual of pushing and shoving children that had been waiting since the wee  hours of the morning.. I watched a small child in front of us almost be trampled, if it not for her mother and several other mothers…I’m sure she would have been.

Calls to security at the mall proved to be useless because unfortunately the management staff at Steamtown did not make the appropriate accommodations for this type of event. As being a past event planner myself, and having attended and organized numerous events in the past…this definitely was the most mismanaged I have ever seen. When I called the mall a few weeks earlier, they had said this event was going to be huge….with these facts known, appropriate security measures should have been taken to ensure the safety of the children/pre-teens that were attending.

The Scranton police arrived close to 3:45pm, and when approached by my 11 year old daughter who was near hyperventilating while in line ,that there was a barrage of people that were pushing themselves through other young children, we were told that’s not their job, they were there purely to see that Miss Osment was escorted out safely. Well, I say to Steamtown Mall and the City of Scranton itself, how about the safety of the children who were attending this event.

Small measures could have been taken to ensure the guests who attended were safely escorted to the stage, such as handing out numbers to arrivals as they had gotten in line, making another barrier between the lines and the crowds that were gathering, etc. I’m sure I can list many more…

I am also disappointed as a parent that adults at this event would not even care for the safety of the children that were around them, and how this example to their children will prove to be fatal in the future. What they have learned is not to regard for the safety of the people around them but to practically step, push, pull, until they get what they want. Are these really the adults of the future that we want in society.

This was not a day out to remember with my daughter as I had planned but a horrible memory that will be etched into her memory for some time. I do hope that the Management of Steamtown Mall, Disney Channel, Longbotham Strategic Marketing, and 97 BHT will learn from this and ensure the safety of children at these events in the future.

And did my children meet Miss Osment after all of this? No they didn’t, they were more happy they left the craziness of this event and arrived to the safety of our home. I guess the best place to see Miss Osment is watching her on our television set.

Lailani Augustine

Cc: WNEP 16
Disney Corporate
The Times Leader

2 thoughts on “Local Disney Promotional Event a Nightmare”

  1. An Open Letter to the Community from James M. Walsh, Vice President of Property Management, Prizm Asset Management Company / The Mall at Steamtown


    On Saturday, August 4, 2007, Emily Jordan Osment, who portrays Lilly Truscott on The Disney Channel’s mega-hit cable television series HANNAH MONTANA, flew into Scranton to make a personal appearance at The Mall at Steamtown from Noon until 4pm. The sheer number of people in attendance dwarfed all previous turnouts for celebrity appearances hosted in this venue.

    After graciously attending a Celebrity Breakfast held that morning at Scranton’s Historic Radisson Hotel, hosted by The Mall at Steamtown and 97 BHT, Emily took the stage in the Mall’s Center Court amidst the applause and cheers of thousands of excited fans. To her credit, the young star signed in excess of 1,500 autographs with unwavering courtesy and kindness. Both Emily and her father, Eugene Osment, expressed her wish to meet and greet every single visitor on Saturday. Unfortunately, due to the size of the crowd, it was physically impossible. Emily’s limousine left the Radisson in plenty of time to deliver her to the stage by Noon, however unexpected throngs of people lining Lackawanna Avenue brought traffic to a near stand-still, making it challenging to bring the car into the Mall and resulting in her arriving 15 minutes late.

    The Mall at Steamtown’s continuing series of celebrity appearances provide us with a forum in which we can give back to our community while providing a memorable, value-added shopping experience for our customers, allowing as many of our guests to meet their Hollywood heroes as possible.

    Over the last two years, The Mall at Steamtown has brought a number of celebrities to the City of Scranton. We continue to do so because, overwhelmingly, public response has been very positive. These community events are orchestrated over many months and involve the synergies of multiple disciplines including media partners, marketing firms, transportation companies, corporate sponsors, local and county law enforcement, fire officials, emergency personnel and the District Attorney’s office, as well as numerous other resources and support systems. Security measures taken for this event far exceeded the level required for the appearance of THE OFFICE’s Rainn Wilson back in December, 2006. Mall security, plainclothes detectives and Scranton Police worked diligently to ensure the safety of all. A Fire Marshall patrolled the stage area for the duration of the event. Every possible precaution was taken to protect the public, with Mall Public Safety Officers even going outside to distribute bottled water to families standing in the heat and sun.

    A number of Saturday’s attendees were upset because their children did not meet Emily and a few people felt personally slighted. Although it was our intention for every individual to meet Emily personally and to create wonderful, lasting memories for all the children in attendance, the size of the crowd was an unforeseen obstacle that simply could not be overcome despite the best efforts of all involved. We recognize that there is certainly no greater source of disappointment and frustration than to have let down a small child. Emily’s time with us was limited due to her busy schedule, and she went above and beyond at every turn, even using a portion of her lunch break to call a 9-year-old leukemia patient at the Janet Weis Children’s Hospital in Danville. She also signed numerous items that will be auctioned off for charity during future Mall events.

    In an effort to accommodate more fans at future events during which a larger than normal attendance might be expected, The Mall at Steamtown, Longbotham Strategic Marketing and our media partners will work to extend celebrity appearances, possibly over a period of several days, during which a number of various meet and greet opportunities will be scheduled. Additionally, the possibility of erecting large video screens throughout the Mall and along the street may provide a means by which fans can watch and feel more connected to the proceedings. We are certainly open and willing to explore various solutions to enhance the success of our events and will continue to make every effort to ensure the safety and happiness of our neighbors and friends at all times.

    Public comments, feedback and constructive criticism is welcomed and appreciated. The Mall at Steamtown is currently planning the 2007 Holiday shopping season and would appreciate community input. To nominate your favorite celebrity to be considered for an appearance at The Mall at Steamtown, email your nomination to [email protected].

    Thank you for your support, attendance and continued commitment to the vitality and prosperity of Downtown Scranton. The Mall at Steamtown is your ultimate shopping destination downtown. http://www.themallatsteamtown.com

  2. I agree with Lailani Augustine’s comments. Although I acknowledge that Steamtown Mall is trying their hardest to bring big events to Downtown Scranton in order to make the City of Scranton a special place to visit, this event did not bring about those very results the Mall desired. Mr. Walsh seems to believe that the anger of some families had to do with the feeling of being “slighted” at having not met Emily; however, what he fails to understand is that the majority of families were angry at the chaos and breakdown in security, organization, and safety within a very short time upon Emily’s arrival.

    Yes, my family arrived at the mall at 8:00 am (as I was told to do so by the mall’s customer services just days before), and, yes, I am very unhappy, that my daughters, who were in a reasonable position to be able to meet Emily, were unable to do so due to said disorder and chaos; however, my main concern by the time we reached the flimsy roped stanchions in the front, was the safety and well-being of the children in my care ( one of whom was passing out from being pushed around and shoved into other people)and for those families/adolescents around me who had also been responsible enough to arrive at the mall at the same time as we did.

    I will add that I am not surprised at the many young people, preteens to older adolescents to adults, who displayed the utmost abhorent behaviors infront of children just to get to the front of the stage, including cutting in line, lying, pushing/shoving to get at the front or to get one of the tossed out gifts, and using their children as nothing but a means to an end. This should never detract, though, from the responsiblity of the organizers and handlers of the event. Mr. Walsh should do well to acknowledge the severity of the issues at hand to all who attended and the Mall should refrain from trying to compare this event to the other events that cater to either adults or to younger children. The Emily Osment event clearly catered to the preteen/adolescent crowd, with a mix of younger and older kids in there, which places this on a whole different level.

    Recommendations would be: there needs to be a review of the police/security presence at events such as these as they were non-existent or not of use at this one; the stanchions cannot be weak and easy to get around, they need to be sturdy and immovable (for the event); there needs to be security at hot points near the line where people would find easy access to cut; organizers should give out wristbands with numbers to those in line, beginning at the front (see Chicago event with Emily O); and, they should learn and research other events around the country as to how they are handled, learn what is good and what not to do.

    Perhaps, the mall and other organizers, should consider having some parents come in to discuss ooptions before these types of events.

    Above all, stop sugar coating the obvious. I spoke to many families that day. Most families who were truly in line were there from the wee hours of the morning until at least 4:00 pm. That is a long time to spend having to stop inconsiderate interlopers, not to mention having to protect your kids from a harmful situation. They were not the ones responsible for this mess.

    Learn from it. We don’t want these events to go away. Like “The Office” it’s nice when Scranton can be recognized and have good things happen, but we need to make sure that we are doing it in a positive and constructive way and not passing the buck when things go wrong.

    There will be some of us parents who will be watching.

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