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EXCERPT ON THE 1970 POWDER RIDGE ROCK FESTIVAL FROM

“AQUARIUS RISING: THE ROCK FESTIVAL YEARS”

BY ROBERT SANTELLI, 1980

The following summer a Connecticut rock festival billed as a continuation of Woodstock received almost as much pre-festival coverage as the huge New York State festival had in 1969. The Powder Ridge Festival was scheduled to be a three-day affair located on the outskirts of the town of Middlefield, at the Powder Ridge Ski Resort. The ski area's three hundred acres of sloping hills were leased to Middleton Arts International for the last weekend in July.

Powder Ridge represented an opportunity for those in the Northeast who had missed Woodstock to experience the excitement and ebullience of what the media called a countercultural extravaganza of music, drugs, and out and out nudity. For those who were present at Woodstock, Powder Ridge was a chance to relive the glories and fun of attending such" large rock events. The promoters promised at least eighteen top-notch acts such as Sly and the Family Stone, Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin, Chuck Berry, and other artists who had performed at Woodstock.

Advance tickets sold fast. Two weeks prior to the festival promoters had already grossed over $500,000. They might have accumulated double that figure if a group of Middlefield locals had not decided to halt festival plans before it was too late.

The four thousand residents of Middlefield had read with trepidation and dismay of what had happened to Bethel and the surrounding villages during the Woodstock invasion the previous August. The traffic, the drugs, the hordes of long-haired kids who trespassed on private property, and the general unsettling of a peaceful environment all added up to a disturbing situation for the typically conservative community. They wanted nothing to do with those young people who expressed alien values and advanced social notions of anarchy and revolution. No, not in Middlefield. There was no room for a rock festival in a community that was proud of its three Vietnam War veterans and its girl scout troop and its reputation as a town that exhibited a decent moral tradition and a healthy, American atmosphere in which young people could grow into respectable adults. Middlefield simply did not want a rock festival to occur within its boundaries.

The local elected authorities, on advice from the municipal lawyer, filed a request with the state's judicial department for a court injunction against the rock festival. Twice Middlefield rejected the application for a permit to stage a rock festival at the ski resort, and still the promoters advertised the event as being "on." Three days before the festival weekend, the State Superior Court ruled that the Powder Ridge Rock Festival would create monumental traffic jams and endanger the lives of festivalgoers, as the roads leading up to the ski resort were extremely narrow and hazardous. A court order was therefore issued prohibiting the festival from taking place.

This ineffective notice, posted by the State Highway Department of Connecticut, warned festivalgoers traveling though New Haven that the festival was off.  Photo by UPI
This ineffective notice, posted by the State Highway Department of Connecticut, warned festivalgoers traveling though New Haven that the festival was off. Photo by UPI

 

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Rockfest '70 Robb Strycharz, 1998-2006
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