Rockfest 70 News Archive. Background Picture of Powder Ridge Rock Festival, Middlefield, CT 1970



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The Middletown Press: July 31, 1970



Legal or not, music or not, the Powder Ridge Festival is in full swing.

The crowd of young people swelled overnight by a couple thousand, bringing the ski area's population to about 15,000. State Police, while standing by, are coping with traffic on Rt. 68, but the festival goers walk past the checkpoint and down the long road to Powder Ridge without being stopped. The crowd is peaceful, but they are not leaving as State's Atty. Vincent Scamporino, charged with enforcing Judge J. Palmer's injunction

stopping the festival, would like them to.

Scamporino said at noon that the Zemels were still being held responsible at this point "They're on his property, he's letting them in. He was a party to the organization of the festival.

"My intention is that as far as the State Police are concerned, they're not going to do anything to disperse the youngsters. We will not do that," said Scamporino.

Not Pleasant

The "consequences," he said, "are not very pleasant at all for the people of Middlefield," citing traffic and illegally parked cars.

While predicting nothing, Scamporino indicated there would be police action only If the Powder Ridge crowd overflowed the area and there was trouble.

His main concern yesterday, he said, was in shutting off power to the festival audio system. Water will not be shut off, he said, and sanitation contractors are being allowed to clean the toilets.

Food service, he said, "is the responsibility of Mr. Zemel"

Scamporino complimented the medical work of Dr. Charles Chace, who have set up facilities at Memorial School. Also, he added, "I haven't got the words to describe the wonderful work of Commissioner (Leo) Mulcahy and all of his men in handling what "could be an explosive situation" with the "soft approach."

Mulcahy was quoted by newsmen yesterday as saying "They (the kids) can stay there until Thanksgiving."

Growing impatient, Scamporino last night ordered the arrest of Louis and Herman Zemel owners of Powder Ridge, and Bill Hanley, in charge of stage, and sound equipment and apparently the last remaining representative of the promoters, Middleton Arts International.

State Police Commissioner Leo J. Mulcahy personally called the Zemels at 7 p.m. last night and asked them to go to Middlefield fire house to be arrested for "violation of an order of temporary injunction." No specifics were given or available. Released on their own recognizance before 10 p.m. at Superior Court here, the Zemels and Hanley were scheduled to appear for arraignment at 2 p.m.

Atty. Jacob Belford, speaking for the Zemels, told reporters late last night that he had asked Judge Palmer to release the three men without bail because a real-estate bond or cash could not be provided.

Festival Rescheduled

At a New York press conference this morning, according to United Press International, festival producer Alan Sherr announced that the festival was being rescheduled for Yankee Stadium on Saturday August 22 and Sunday August 23.

He said that all of the estimated 30,000 tickets sold for the event as it was scheduled in Middlefield would be honored at the stadium. He said he expected most, if not all, of the rock groups who were to have appeared at Powder Ridge to perform that weekend in New York.

A Yankee Stadium spokesman confirmed that negotiations were underway with Middletown Arts but no contract had been signed yet.

The stadium has 65,000 seats and there is place for standing room, the spokesman said. No camping would be permitted.

He said he foresaw no difficulty in scheduling the concerts as long as an advance was paid by the promoters.

There is still no definite word on whether persons holding tickets will be able to refund them for the $20 fee.

Atty. Belford told the press that "nobody knows where the promoters are" to get the controversy over ticket refunds settled. "I think the State Police would like to know where they are," he added.

Belford said the Zemels had control over several ticket outlets and that $60,000 has been held in escrow for the last two I weeks, pending the outcome of the festival.

The arrest of the Zemels and Henley, Who was subsequently ordered off the premises by Atty. Belford and Louis Zemel, I caused little stir among the crowd. Jeff Davis of the Cosmic Lab — a group formed to follow the festival circuit this summer to cool-crowds in the event of a "bad festival" — announced the arrest over the public address system about 7:34 p.m. half an hour after Mulcahy's call.

He said the Zemels had been taken by the promoters, termed the festival a "bummer," said I there would definitely be no professional rock groups performing — despite rumors — and pleaded with the crowd either to leave or, if they stayed, to have a good time.

"Let's make music of our own," said Davis. He warned the crowd to stay out of "Powder Puddle." saying is was causing "dysentery." He also said. "Don't let anyone with drugs make a lot of money. Liberate them."

Zemel Backed

A group similar to the Cosmic Lab, signing themselves "Brothers and Sisters." circulated a leaflet condemning the promoters and backing the Zemels.

The promoters, said the leaflet, "became involved with the festival to rip (exploit) us and our culture off. Their interest far from putting on a good festival concert, revolved around a film they were making that would have benefited from disaster and riots to be successful.

"So their efforts were directed toward creating that atmosphere. Two days ago they split the festival area rather than face the realties and responsibilities of providing services for the people here"

The Zemels, it stated, "'were burned by the promoters" and were threatened with jailing and fines. "They're doing everything possible to keep the people of the festival alive. Above all they don't want the pigs (police) vamping on the people."

The leaflet listed four alternatives for the crowd: 1) "We can leave, slowly, but leave," 2) "unrealistically staying on site" with "the possibility of the police coming in." 3) "Confrontation with pigs on their terms . . . We're not prepared for this; 4) Ripping off the Powder Ridge area will benefit only the promoter's movie interest."

Still Stay

There were few indications of any large movement out of Powder Ridge, but there is the general realization that the scheduled festival will not happen.

Arrivals overnight at the ski area seemed the most disappointed

"I thought it was going to be like Woodstock," said one girl as she surveyed the 15,000 or so people.

"They had no right at all to call off the music," said a boy with her. They came from New Haven and had arrived only 20 minutes before.

Some New Jersey youths who would "stay around" to see what happened. They said they were having a fairly good time even without music.

Asked what they had heard about Powder Ridge before coming, Pat and Fran said. "The radio said there was no festival and nobody was coming and we'd be arrested. But we came anyway." Meanwhile, Powder Hill Road land Rt. 147 — blocked to all but cars with resident passes — are crowded with people walking in from Rt. 86, where of them have left their cars.

A State Police spokesman said this morning that, as of 10 a.m., 379 cars had been towed, away by 11 wreckers to their own garages.

300 Arrests

Police have made 300 arrests for "everything and anything," but mostly for illegal parking. Few are in jail, he said.

Those looking for their cars but not finding them where they parked them ran find out the location from the State Police at the town fire house. The towing fee — about $28 — must be paid to reclaim the cars.

The officer said that the cars littering Rt. 66 would all be towed away. "That's being done now," he said. Approximately 150 State Police are on duty in the area, mostly involved with keeping the roads free of traffic.

During yesterday afternoon's rush-hour traffic, cars were held up from 10 to 15 minutes on either side of the intersection of Rts. 66 and 147. There was little auto traffic on Middlefield roads.

At the fire house parking lot — lined with about 30 police vehicles — things were quiet this morning as shifts changed and those Just coming on sipped coffee and chatted with those going off duty.

The main concern was traffic, but the police told anecdotes to each other about the festival crowd. One officer chuckled as he told about two girls found "sleeping feet to feet" on a bridge.

Fear For Walkers

One sergeant said the main fear was that pedestrians were in some danger along the roads since there were so many of them.

"We won't go in there," State Police Commissioner Mulcahy was quoted by UPI as saying. He said his men "are making even effort to avoid incidents with the youths. This we don't want."

The arrest of the Zemels and Hanley came as no surprise since State's Attorney Scamporino had warned Wednesday that they would be the first to be arrested for violating Judge Palmer's injunction.

Following the arrest and release of the three last night the Zemel's attorney, Jacob Belford, was asked by reporters how they were going to get the crowd to leave Powder Ridge

"All we can do," he said, "is ask them to leave. In addition we have and we intend to continue to enforce the injunction as requested by the state's attorney. We were told to turn off the audio, and sound, and we have complied."

He repeated that there was an agreement by Scamporino and the State Police and Mulcahy that they would be kept off the premises.

Peak today

Middlefield first Selectman, Arthur Meckley yesterday issued his second bulletin to town residents. "The climax of the drama," he stated, "will probably peak today and tomorrow." The crowd was continuing to grow, he said, despite efforts to enforce Judge Palmer's injunction. "As a result the town is faced with a most critical situation, one which will require the utmost caution by all parties involved."

"Neither we nor the kids I should vent our anger toward one another," Meckley said, adding that the festival-goers had been "exploited" by the Powder Ridge owners and the promoters, "We must make every effort to get through the weekend peacefully."

Meckley said, "We must place our confidence in, and lend support to, Mr. Scamporino and the State Police from now until the end of the emergency. The residents near Powder Ridge are taking the brunt of this fiasco. They need all of our support in whatever way we can give it."

There were some indications that some residents may have changed their attitude toward the youthful crowd. Cars with resident passes are giving lifts to young people. Hoses have been left on in front of at least two houses on Powder Hill Road. One girl, given a lift up the road by a reporter, commented happily. "Wow, this woman came out and save me a bag of food."

"Where?" asked a reporter.

"Down at the bottom of the road," the girl answered. "She was real worried about breaking the law too."


Rockfest '70 Robb Strycharz, 1998-2006
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