Fyre Festival Fiasco Chronicled in Two Documentaries; Defrauded Restaurant Owner Receives Big Donations

The 2017 Fyre Festival was supposed to be an amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience. Organizers promised guests two weekends of luxury complete with villa accommodations, gourmet food, jet skis, a treasure hunt with $1 million in prizes, and music by Major Lazer, Blink-182, and Migos. The price of a ticket? They stretched into the several thousands with deluxe packages costing $250,000. Instagram influencers like Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid promoted the event and when the date arrived, festival-goers arrived to the island with high expectations. They were shocked by the reality: tents, prepackaged cold sandwiches and salads, no music, and as it became painfully clear very soon, no festival at all.

Two documentaries came out recently, one from Hulu and one from Netflix, detailing the implosion of the Fyre Festival. It appears that at least at first, the festival was supposed to be happen. In late 2015, Billy McFarland and Ja Rule co-founded Fyre, an app for celebrity booking, and decided to organize a luxury festival to promote it. They chose a gorgeous Bahama island as the setting and started churning up social media hype. Influencers were paid to endorse the festival; Kendall Jenner reportedly got $250,000.

Influencers often posted an orange square similar to this in promotion of Fyre Festival

However, as the documentaries uncover, trouble was already brewing with money and setting up details. In April 2017, Exuma Online published an article exposing cracks, such as the fact that Major Lazer, a Fyre Festival headliner, was actually scheduled to perform in Texas. Soon after, Blink-182 pulled out. People still flocked to the island the day before the festival. They were met with tents, panicked workers, and prepacked cheese sandwiches. Disappointed ticket-holders start posting pics to Instagram. Many tried to leave, packing the airport. In the early of hours of April 28, the festival was officially cancelled.

Organizers have since faced at least eight lawsuits and lead organizer Billy McFarland will be in jail for the next six years for wire fraud and defrauding investors. After canceling, Fyre essentially fled the island, leaving vendors high and dry. One business in particular was hit especially hard. The Exuma Point Bar and Grille was hired to serve 1,000 meals a day and host the organizers, but owner Maryann Rolle was never paid. She emptied out her life savings for her employees.

The story has a happy ending. A fundraising campaign for the bar collected over $160,000 in eight days, surpassing its original goal. There’s some justice in the world. You can learn more about the Fyre Festival and the people involved by watching Fyre Fraud on Hulu, Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened over at Netflix, or both!