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Fresno run event at Woodward Park abruptly postponed. Some believe it always was a scam

A 5K Happy Hour Run was marketed as being held July 20, 2019, at Woodward Park in Fresno, California. Then it got “postponed.” But a city official said the event never was booked to be held at Woodward Park.
A 5K Happy Hour Run was marketed as being held July 20, 2019, at Woodward Park in Fresno, California. Then it got “postponed.” But a city official said the event never was booked to be held at Woodward Park. Facebook screen shot

Bad news for those who wanted to run and drink and party Saturday at Woodward Park.

The “5K Happy Hour Run” that was scheduled 3-8 p.m. Saturday in Fresno wasn’t just “postponed” as stated in an e-mail message sent out to entrants.

The event – marketed as “an adult run of your dreams” focusing “less on speed and more on margarita, wine, and beer with friends and family” – never was on the books to be held at Woodward Park, an official with the City of Fresno confirmed.

In addition, an official at the state Alcoholic Beverage Control office in Fresno said the 5K Happy Hour Run never applied for a liquor license to sell or distribute alcohol.

And because people have been unable to get a refund, many are wondering if the 5K Happy Hour Run was just one big scam.

“There are a lot of things that just don’t make sense,” said Mark Standriff, director of Communications and Public Affairs for the city. “First off, there is nothing of record with us at all of this event. And you can’t hold an event potentially this big without the city — not if you’re a legit group. You’d need a special events permit for the park.

“The other thing is: Who in their right mind schedules a 5K run in the dead of July in Fresno when there’s typically triple-digit temperatures, and holds it during the hottest time of the day? It all smells very fishy.”

No word from organizer

Multiple messages left for Aaron Scott of Corona, believed to be the race organizer, were not returned Friday.

In an e-mail message sent to those who signed up for the 5K run through Eventbrite, event manager “Kristine G.” states:

“Due to an extremely low sign-up rate, we apologetically have to inform you that this event has been postponed. This means there are not enough runners registered at this time to successfully put on this event. We will be working diligently with our marketing team, the city and the venue to properly work out all logistics.”

The 5K Happy Hour Run states under its “Frequently Asked Questions” that organizers do not issue refunds or transfers under any circumstances, and that location and date are subject to change at any time.

For what it’s worth, the 5K Happy Hour Run offers a legitimate look on the internet.

Its website looks modern and showcases skylines of different cities, touting where other 5K runs are scheduled to be held. Among the cities listed are Sacramento, Kansas City, Charlotte, Dallas, Boise and Seattle.

Its Facebook page shows photos of people wearing medals and 5K Happy Hour run shirts.

There is footage on YouTube that show people running and stretching and fancy drinks being poured all in a slick music video.

Reasons to be skeptical

But there’s no mention of runners’ results, something that caught the attention of Brad Castillo. He’s race director of the Wascally Wabbit Half Marathon that’s been held in the Fresno area for the past six years.

“Everyone wants to know their times,” Castillo said.

Another red flag for Castillo: the requirement to pay online in advance.

He said the 5K Happy Hour situation serves as a reminder that “it’s always important to know who you’re signing up with. That can take some time to research.

“Is the race organization from the local area? Do they donate to charity? Real charities? And actually donate money from their own organization and not just the monies that people give them to donate on their behalf?”

The 5K Happy Hour website states it supports the WorldWide Push Foundation. According to Corporationwiki.com, Aaron Quincy Scott is listed as the president of the foundation.

Back in 2017, the WorldWide Push Foundation was reported to be the beneficiary of a similar run that didn’t come off, the Ultimate Wine Run in Kansas City, according to Fox4KC.

Sacramento experience

It’s unclear exactly how many people signed up for the 5K Happy Hour Run in Fresno.

But they’re not alone.

A few months ago, a 5K Happy Hour Run twice was scheduled to be held in Sacramento. Both times it was postponed. The second time, the stated reason was a “scheduled high propensity of rain.”

The event has now been rescheduled to March 14, 2020. It was originally scheduled Dec. 1, 2018 then pushed to Feb. 2, 2019.

At least one entrant in the Sacramento race is frustrated.

“I signed up for the event and was looking forward to a fun event with friends and then it was postponed … and then the comments on the Facebook event started rolling in,” said Verna Sulpizio, who works for the tourism bureau in Sacramento. “After some messaging with friends and Googling, it became pretty clear to us the event was a scam.

“I was angry and frustrated that someone would create such an elaborate and deliberate scam. The event has a website, Facebook page, social media marketing, etc. They put in work to make this look legitimate.

“Then I got REALLY angry,” Sulipizo added, “that companies like Facebook and Eventbrite are also profiting off these scams and not doing anything to shut the events down.”

As of Friday evening, the Eventbrite page to sell tickets to the 5K Happy Hour Run in Fresno stated sales had ended. Registration fees for the event were $20 with a $2.09 fee.

There has been no indication if or when the event will be rescheduled in Fresno.

Det. Keith Dugan with the Rock Hill Police Department talks scams and some ways to avoid them. A Winthrop student told police that he paid $1,500 in Walmart gift cards to who he thought was a representative with the Dell Computer Company.

Bryant-Jon Anteola is a multimedia reporter for The Fresno Bee, writing stories and producing videos about sports, news and random topics relatable to those in the Fresno area. He’s won a McClatchy President’s Award and received honorable mention by the Associated Press Sports Editors. He enjoys sports because of the competition, camaraderie and energy, and views sports as a microcosm of society.
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