Ice Climbing Festival’s new organizer felt betrayed by Foote | Local News

Ari Novak said he felt betrayed.

A professionally sponsored ice-climber and alpinist who lives in Bozeman, Mont., Novak was distressed when he learned last year that Cody’s Ice Climbing Festival was in danger of falling dormant.

Donald R. Foote Jr., the festival’s former organizer – and a friend of Novak’s at the time – was embroiled in a felony embezzlement case, and it wasn’t clear who would manage 2017’s event.

Passionately committed to the sport, Novak said he felt it was his time to step up.

Novak purchased the festival from Foote, and also did his best to help rehabilitate Foote’s reputation, which had been badly damaged by accusations that Foote had embezzled over $5,000 from a search and rescue organization.

Foote pleaded guilty to the embezzlement charge this summer.

At the 2017 Ice Festival, though, Novak said he went out of his way to bring Foote back into the fold.

The event featured speeches honoring Foote’s contribution to the festival over the years, and Foote was presented with free gear on behalf of Novak and other organizers.

“It was astounding,” Novak said of what happened next.

While festival attendees were out making ascents, Novak said someone broke into the Cody Auditorium where the festival’s night time activities took place.

Almost $900 in gear was stolen, leaving Novak and others mystified – until Foote posted pictures of himself wearing some of the missing items. Novak said some of the gear was made specifically for organizers, so it was easy to recognize and identify.

“Somebody who I’ve been kind and decent to and who I’ve tried to be a friend to robbed us,” Novak said of the incident.

As part of the plea deal Foote took in the embezzlement case, he agreed to pay Novak $895 in restitution in coming months.

Novak said he was forced to file a civil law suit against…

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