‘My life was changed’: Fyre Festival victim crowdfunds more than $200,000

Many have helped create a possible happy ending for one of the devastating stories out of Netflix’s documentary on the disastrous musical festival that completely fell apart and descended into chaos.

Maryann Rolle, the caterer interviewed in Netflix’s Fyre Festival documentary, created a crowdfunding campaign with the goal of raising US$120,000, but she has now hit $184,669 — more than $240,000 Canadian — in 10 days.

The money was raised by 6,703 people and the page has been shared 7.9K times.

The restaurant owner said she lost her life savings when she had to pay numerous people after she was deceived by Fyre Festival co-founder Billy McFarland and the rest of his team.

McFarland was behind Fyre Festival, which was billed as an ultra-luxurious music festival set against a tropical Bahamian backdrop but descended into abject chaos. He was later arrested and charged with wire fraud.

“Back in April 2017, I pushed myself to the limit catering no less than a 1,000 meals per day,” Maryann and Elvis Rolle wrote in a joint statement on their GoFundMe page. “Breakfast, lunch and dinner were all prepared and delivered by [Exuma Point Resort] to Coco Plum Beach and Roker’s Point, where the main events were scheduled to take place.”

Rolle told her story in the Netflix documentary FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened.

As she discussed in the documentary, Rolle allegedly had to use her own savings to cover $50,000 in staff paycheques after the the festival organizers never paid her.

“I had 10 persons working directly with me, just preparing food all day and all night, 24 hours,” she said in the Netflix doc. “I had to literally pay all those people. I am here as a Bahamian, and they stand in my face every day.

“Fyre Fest organizers were also checked into all the rooms at Exuma Point Resort. As I make this plea, it’s hard to believe and embarrassing to admit that I was not paid…I was left in a big hole!” Rolle wrote on the GoFundMe page.

“My life was changed forever, and my credit was ruined by Fyre Fest. My only resource today is to appeal for help. There is an old saying that goes ‘bad publicity is better than no publicity,’ and I pray that whoever reads this plea is able to assist.”

“I am so sorry to hear about what this festival did to you and your workers. You deserve all of this and more. I hope you are able to move past this devastating circumstance. I wish you the best. Keep your spirits high,” one person wrote on the crowdfunding page.

“I recently spent time on Great Exuma Island working with a NGO studying sharks in the area. I came to know and have a fond place in my heart for the locals, who I found to be kind, caring, funny and curious, as I often do of people in remote places,” another person wrote. “As an event planner, I understand the amount of work it takes to put an event together, but taking advantage of hundreds of people at the last minute and then not paying them is not part of a solution.

The post continued: “It is really sad to see what the bad business of the Fyre Festival did to this community, I had no idea until I saw the movie or I would have donated money right then and there on site! I hope that this money can be spread also to the workers that have not been paid. Thank you for sharing your kindness and aloha, Kristin.”

Rolle told Bahamian newspaper Tribune 242 that she honoured her contract in hopes that the company behind the failed festival would bring business to the island later, as the festival was supposed to happen once a year for the next five years.

“I wasn’t working for this one; I was working on our future goals with Fyre,” she said. “That was my purpose.

“I understand how good business should work so I was in agreement. You’re thinking it’s real, we liaison in good faith. In the Bahamas, sometimes we tend to get careless about business and we lean more to good faith. That’s our culture,” she said.

McFarland is currently serving a six-year jail sentence for wire fraud. Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald called him a “serial fraudster.”

He admitted to defrauding investors of $26 million in the 2017 music festival and over $100,000 in a fraudulent ticket-selling scheme after his arrest in the festival scam.

Buchwald said McFarland deserved a long prison term because he disrespected the criminal justice system by lying to law enforcement agents when they learned about the ticket-selling business.

Speaking in a courtroom packed with friends, family and at least one victim, McFarland apologized as family members cried behind him.

He said he hit rock bottom and plans to become a better person.

— With files from the Associated Press and Rahul Kalvapalle

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