.Festival Scam Rocks Santa Rosa Fitness Community

A big fitness festival was supposed to happen in Santa Rosa today. Spoiler alert: It didn’t. The event was called NorCal Fitness & Dancefest, and it was “the brainchild of an eccentric and supposedly wealthy out-of-town philanthropist,” the Press Democrat reports. “He went by the name Jon Micheline and started connecting with local community members in the fitness scene. He professed a desire to give up his worldly possessions and become a ‘beach bum.’ He said that as a wealthy real estate investor at an existential crossroads, he was looking to rid himself of excess and start giving back by supporting charity projects and community events.” So he reportedly reached out to all these local entrepreneurs in the fitness space, plus DJs and whatnot, to help him set up one big whirlwind day of “fitness and martial arts classes, acupuncture, sound healing and massage booths, an epic dance party featuring pole, burlesque and belly dancing, and a Guinness World Records group twerk attempt,” according to the PD. Some business owners paid up to $120 each for a booth at the festival, while others say they put in setup work on the promise they’d be paid later. That’s when our dude disappeared. “He no-showed, never met us, never signed the contract, never paid my friends for the work they put in,” says Tristan St. Germain, a “trauma-informed somatic life coach and fitness professional” who got involved. The fact that the festival ended up being a scam makes the specific offerings on the bill feel even more bizarre — especially the world-record twerk attempt and dance party, which was supposed to be a fundraiser for St. Germain’s teenaged son, Kainoa. The therapist has been raising money to help pay for her son’s multiple sclerosis treatments — and she’s now sickened that people may have bought the fraudulent $25 dance party tickets while they were live on the festival’s website in her son’s name, with this mystery scammer pocketing the money. “I feel bamboozled,” she tells ABC. “It’s hard for me to understand how people can be so mindless and heartless and cruel. I feel he played on my vulnerability at the worst time of my life.” Meanwhile, the festival’s Instagram page, which is still live as I write this, is full of cheesy — and now, in context, pretty creepy — wellness memes with slogans like “Never Mess With a Woman Who Hands Upside Down for Fun” and “Love the Body You Have, While Working on the Body You Want” and “Don’t Half Ass Anything. Always Use Your Full Ass.” Another big cringe factor: NorCal Fitness & Dancefest was supposed to take place at the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building on Memorial Day weekend, but the guy who orchestrated this whole thing reportedly ended up shorting the folks who oversee events at the veterans building on final payments and going dark. Doesn’t get much skeezier than that. (Source: Tristan St. Germain via GoFundMe & Press Democrat & ABC7 & NorCal FitFest & NorCal FitFest via Instagram & Feed Your Happy)


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