The Fyre Festival: The Harvard Students’ Journey to Miami

‘It was an absolute Fyre Festival.’ Before Miami contestants were enlisted to save the world, another group signed up in Montreal. But where were the cameras?

Last December, as thousands of revelers descended on Miami’s Little Haiti to celebrate the holidays, a group of strangers was gathering in the city’s downtown core to watch the festival’s events unfold from a different perspective—and to see for themselves what was happening while they were busy elsewhere.

“We were really interested in the festival,” says Justin Pfeffer, who, with a group of classmates from Harvard’s Kennedy School, had travelled from New York to Miami to join his former friend Jonathan Wojciechowski for a weekend of drinking, partying, and, quite possibly, a little bit of Fyre Fest. “It seemed like a really interesting thing happening in Miami and we were pretty excited to participate.”

It was the first Fyre Festival, but it would hardly be the last. For the last 14 of those days, the Harvard students were surrounded by thousands of people, many of whom were not interested in the festival at all, but rather in getting a glimpse of a world they could not in fact see because they had not yet signed up to experience it. The Harvard students were among the first to do so.

“We were the first to apply, but we were not the first to apply,” Pfeffer writes in the introduction to his essay. “That’s because at the last minute my university gave me permission to skip the first month and jump straight to the second and final year in order to not have to wait a long time for the finals before I could get accepted.”

Justin Pfeffer and Jonathan Wojciechowski at a party in Miami before starting their second year of an Fyre Festival

The Harvard students were not disappointed. They were able to move on to the next stage of the Fyre Festival in the weeks that followed, but they did not leave without gaining a deep and lasting appreciation for what Fyre Fest is all about. Pfeffer explains that, rather than watching the festival directly, he and his fellow participants had, in a way, become the festival.

The Harvard students had the opportunity to see what an actual festival is all about—from a point of view they could only have learned through experience—

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