NEAR WEST SIDE — After Riot Fest officials admitted that their stolen Chevy Camaro story was a hoax, a Near West Side alderman said Thursday night that he didn't find the joke very funny.
In a hoax meant to draw attention to their toy drive, Riot Fest organizers lied about a red Chevy Camaro being stolen from outside of Cobra Lounge earlier this week.
Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th), whose ward includes Cobra Lounge, said Riot Fest promoters "need better joke writers."
"It's not even funny to me," Burnett said.
"With everything that is going on today, I don't think it's a good thing to play with fire like that," he added, referring to citywide crime problems and the near-daily protests held across the city after the Laquan McDonald video was released.
Burnett said it's a good thing that the dupe didn't catch the attention of 12th District police, who would have wanted to help recover the Camaro. No police report was filed, Chicago Police confirmed.
"Playing with crime, you can end up getting in trouble. Whether intentional or not, the wrong person could have ended up getting involved," someone who didn't know it was a hoax, Burnett said.
On Tuesday, Riot Fest organizers said a 1990 red Chevy Camaro emblazoned with the music festival's logos was missing from outside of Cobra Lounge.
That same day, DNAinfo Chicago asked Riot Fest promoters if the stolen Camaro story was a hoax, but promoters did not respond.
By Wednesday morning, organizers posted on the Riot Fest website what they said were photos from Cobra Lounge security footage showing that the festival's car mascot was stolen.
But on Thursday, Riot Fest promoters admitted they made the whole thing up in an effort to get fans to raise $2,500 for "underserved children in the communities" around Douglas Park.
Responding to an angry fan on Facebook, Riot Fest wrote Thursday: "I'm sorry we 'tricked' you into donating toys to children on Christmas. Donating to charity is actually a great cure for cynicism, maybe you should try it."
Riot Fest broke the news with a "ransom note" posted to their website, which read that the missing Camaro would be returned if the money was raised. The fictional character, a "benevolent thief," writes: "I was going to steal your Bitchin’ Camaro and repair the transmission. But, in order to get your beloved car back and in proper working condition, you would need to do something special … something that accentuates the holiday spirit."
Through a GoFundMe campaign, Riot Fest raised more than $2,000 for their holiday toy drive fund as of Thursday afternoon.
Collectively, Riot Fest's posts and subsequent stories about the missing Camaro were shared more than 500 times by fans from Riot Fest's Facebook page. The posts included one saying that a reward would be offered for a safe return: "Please keep an eye out and let us know if you see anything. I’m sure we can figure out some sort of reward if you find it. No questions asked. We just want it back."
After facing pushback in Humboldt Park, the punk rock fest moved to Douglas Park in North Lawndale in September.
It has already announced that it will hold the fest next September in Douglas Park.
In a hoax, Riot Fest organizers first said a red Chevy Camaro emblazoned with the words "Riot Fest" was missing and then stolen from outside of Cobra Lounge on the Near West Side. The publicity stunt was meant to draw attention to their toy drive. [Riot Fest Facebook]
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