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



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New York Times: July 31, 1970



Special to the New York Times

MIDDLEFIELD, Conn., Friday, July 31—Roads leading to the Powder Ridge ski area were clogged last night and early today with young people making their way on foot to the 300-acre resort where a rock festival had been scheduled to start today.

As many as 30,000 young men and women were estimated to have flocked to the resort, despite a court order prohibiting the festival, the arrest of the property owners and repeated appeals for the youths to stay away.

Yesterday morning, the state police set up barricades on the roads up to two miles from Powder Ridge and some of the utilities on the ground have been curtailed in an effort to get the youths to go home. The scheduled performers have been warned that they risk arrest if they appear at the resort.

“Festival of Life”

Undismayed by the lack of music or amenities, the youths became caught up in a free-wheeling, spontaneous party that many of them called "the people's free festival of life”

"They could take down the stage and everything - they could shut off the electricity and take out the phones," said a deeply tanned young man from New Haven who was wearing only a leather belt and a bead necklace. "It's the people who do it. The music doesn't make the festival, it's the people."

Some of the young men and women who began arriving several days ago in anticipation of hearing such performers as Sly and The Family Stone and Janis Joplin were seen hiking away from the resort in frustration, but they were more than replaced by the many coming through the front gates every hour.

A cloud of marijuana smoke bung over the central portion of the resort last night, and drug dealers sold their wares openly. Some moved through the crowd crying, "Acid, mescalin, acid, mescalin."

At one point, 200 or so young men and women fell into step together chanting and pounding out a beat with sticks and cans, shoes, bottles, tambourines and bongo drums. A young man with a harmonica and a couple with flutes joined in.

Earlier, in the sweltering mid-day heat, there had been nude swimming, Frisbee playing and merry-go-round riding.

At about 7:30 last night, Louis and Herman Zemel, the owners of Powder Ridge, and William Hanley, a sound specialist from New Bedford, Mass., were arrested and charged with violating the temporary injunction prohibiting the rock festival. They were released in their own recognizance about three hours later.

The specifics of their alleged violation of the injunction were not immediately known.

State Superior Court Judge Aaron J. Palmer had issued the injunction last Monday, saying that the festival would create a "public nuisance" and violate zoning ordinances of this town of 4,050.

Since then, lawyers for the promoters of the festival, Middleton Arts International, which was incorporated for this event, have been attempting to find a way around the court order. Their fastest, apparently their final, defeat came yesterday when the State Supreme Court refused to consider the case.

None of the promoters could be located yesterday. "We don't know where they are," said Jacob Belford, attorney for the Zemel Brothers Inc. the owners of Powder Ridge. Earlier this week, a spokesman for the promoters said 18,000 tickets to the festival had been sold at $20 each. How many persons will be able to get refunds was not immediately clear.

Mr. Belford said the Zemel Brothers gained control of some of the ticket sales outlets two weeks ago when they began to have doubts about the festival. He estimated they had about $60,000, a small percentage of the total sales money, in escrow.

Wednesday, State's Attorney Vingent J. Scamporino told the resort owners that, in order to comply with the injunction and to avoid heavy fines and possible imprisonment, they had to announce that the festival had been canceled and then they had to shut off the resort's utilities by 8 A.M. Wednesday. Later Mr. Scamporino said he considered utilities to include electricity, telephones and food concession stands.

Late Wednesday, Louis Zemel delivered the message to several thousand youths from a high stage built on scaffolding at the foot of the main slope.

His voice quavering with emotion and fatigue, Mr. Zemel apologized for what he was obliged to say and appealed to the young men and women to abide by the court's decision. He suggested to them that a violent reaction against the order might jeopardize future events at Powder Ridge, such as a proposed Black Panther rally, a -rock concert and a civil liberties fund-raiser.

Mr. Zemel told reporters he wanted to get the youths off his property "as quickly as we can and avoid at all costs any confrontation." Earlier yesterday State Police Commissioner Leo Mulcahy reaffirmed that his men would attempt to clear the resort, but would enter it only if disorder erupted.

Gentle Persuasion

Mr. Zemel said that he had found the youths to be peaceful and reasonable and that he would attempt to use persuasion on them to "vote with their feet."

He said he planned to have a cadre of youths circulate through the crowd urging others to leave.

Yesterday afternoon some of the cadre tacked up leaflets saying that there was reason to believe that the promoters were involved with the underworld and that they intended to take advantage of the young music lovers. The leaflets, tacked onto trees, said that it was "unrealistic to remain on the resort."

The leaflets were received with little enthusiasm, "No, man, that's impossible," a shiftless youth said, shaking his head. "Everyone's sitting around getting stoned, digging it. You can't just tell everybody to split."

On the narrow beach of Powder Puddle a 23-year-old brunette teacher from New Haven, who was wearing only a bead-and-shell necklace, said she had no intention of leaving until Sunday.

"It's too peaceful here," she said. "It's like really relaxing. It's like getting your sanity back. It's easy to be really open and honest with everyone in a setting like this."



Rockfest '70 Robb Strycharz, 1998-2006
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