MaryAnn Rolle, a resort and restaurant operator in Exuma Point, Bahamas, preaches a motto of love and forgiveness. But even she can’t get behind Fyre Festival II—now being organized by Billy McFarland, the convicted fraudster behind the first one.
“I don’t think he should go forward with any Fyre Festival until he pays the people here in the Bahamas that he owes,” Rolle said. “You don’t do wrong and then just continue to go on as if you don’t care about people.”
Rolle, 59, was one of the caterers contracted for McFarland’s infamous music festival that wasn’t—a 2017 fiasco that sparked multiple lawsuits and competing documentaries and sent him to prison for four years. Rolle says she worked nonstop to deliver 1,000 meals a day to guests at the doomed festival but was never paid for her work—or the work of employees she compensated out of her own savings. Rolle previously told The New York Times that festival organizers owed her $134,000, and that she spent $50,000 of her own money on expenses.
This week, a little over a year after his release from prison, McFarland announced a reboot of the failed fest, which he is calling Fyre Festival II and which he says he dreamed up while serving time for fraud connected to the first one. It sounds like McFarland is being careful about overpromising this time around: The sequel currently has no lineup, no schedule, and no set location. (The website lists the location as simply “The Caribbean.” The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism has said it “will not endorse or approve any event” associated with McFarland.)
“Guys, this is your chance to get in,” McFarland said in a YouTube video announcing the first drop of 100 tickets at $499 a pop. “This is everything we’ve been working towards. Let’s f***ing go.” The event’s website claims the tickets sold out within a day, which if true just proves P.T. Barnum was right. But Rolle warned customers and business owners not to be fooled by the fraudster’s savvy marketing.
“What they do is flash around a few dollars and brainwash people,” she said. “Don’t fall into that trap. I was trapped by it, thinking these are billionaires … but it was all a hoax.”
— William Needham Finley IV (@WNFIV) April 28, 2017
“I would hope people learn from our mistakes,” she added. “We were the guinea pigs, and I don’t want this for nobody else … We paid the ultimate price here in the Bahamas.”
On top of his prison time, McFarland was ordered to pay $26 million in restitution to investors and ticket holders who found the promised luxury villas and star-studded lineup were a mirage. He was also ordered to pay $5 million in a private lawsuit with two North Carolina residents who spent about $13,000 each on their tickets. Another group of ticket holders were awarded $2 million in a class action lawsuit in 2021.
Rolle says she hasn’t seen any of the money she says McFarland’s company owes her. A GoFundMe page she started after her story was featured in a Fyre Festival documentary has raised more than $240,000, about half of which Rolle told Eyewitness News she had given away.
Rolle told The Daily Beast there were some positive effects of the festival, including the GoFundMe and an increase in tourism from curious visitors.
“A lot of people would pass by the restaurants, wanting to see the sites they created for the Fyre Festival,” she said. “Most of the guests that come love the island, and I know some of them have come back.” She added: “It has done a lot of good, despite all the bad.”
Rolle said she is prone to forgiveness, due to her strong Christian faith, but letting go of what McFarland did is difficult. “He has my heart because I love the Lord [and] I love people,” she said. “I have no hate in my heart. I just want him to do the right thing.”
“I’m hoping the best for him,” she added. “But you gotta do the right thing if you want the best.”
McFarland did not immediately respond to a request for comment by The Daily Beast.