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

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New York Times: July 31, 1970

YOUTHS AT POWDER RIDGE MAINTAIN FESTIVAL ATMOSPHERE

By JOHN DARNTON

Special to The New York Times

MIDDLEFIELD, Conn. July 31 - I'm here because my people are "here," said a New Haven student lowering a knapsack and then gazing upon a vista of multicolored tents, flags, motorcycles, trees and tanned bodies.

His ''people" were the thousands of youths who poured into this tiny town for the Powder Ridge Rock Festival only to find that the music had been outlawed and the services curtailed.

But they remained nonetheless and, in the opinion of many of them, cooperated to make the best of a chaotic living situation that might have spelled the Armageddon of the "Woodstock Nation."

"If we had run from this festival, they would have been able to stop us from now on," 23-year-old Harn Brandt said.

Last night, from the stage where leading rock bands were to have blared forth over a four one-half-ton cluster of speakers, those in the throng were told they would have to "create your own show."

This was done. Late into the night, people wandered through a labyrinth of campsites set on two facing slopes, talking, turning on, carrying candles, laughing and singing.

In one spot a free auction sprang up. Objects that seemed to carry a sudden value - a guitar pick, a moth, a candy bar - were brought to the auctioneer and tossed back to the person in the crowd who seemed to want it most.

In another spot, three boys and three girls stripped and went into a tiny tent that had been converted into a sauna bath by pouring water over fire-heated rocks.

The youths provided their own music - from guitars, chants sung to the beat of tin cans and elaborate stereophonic equipment set atop psychadelic [sic] buses and mattress-lined hearses.

"It all goes to show that you can have a rock music festival without rock music," one participant said.

For Steve Scarano, 18, the last few days have been a whirlwind. It took him 24 hours to hitchhike with a friend from Cleveland, where he works for the World Publishing Company.

He had been looking forward for weeks to the festival, for which he bought a $20 ticket.

En route, he had heard over the car radio about the court injunction prohibiting the festival, but he decided to go anyway "to see what it looks like." Now, after one night of fitful sleep and hours of walking around, Steve was going home, He was leaving because there was no music, because he was afraid the state police might come in and because of a feeling that the town didn't want him here.

"I thought that if they saw we all came anyway, they might let us have the festival," he said softly.

Was it worth it? "It was a lot of trouble, but a lot of fun," he said with a grin. "And I got this." He pulled out a tie-dye shirt that he bought from a vender on the top of the ski slope.

A boy from New Jersey stood near the guardhouse, holding up a cardboard sign that read, "Please stay on the grass."

The message wasn't necessary. From the campsites on the back slopes to the crowds swirling around the empty stage, marijuana and other more powerful drugs came out in full force.

From neatly displayed sidewalk stands, from inside tents named 'Acid Alley' and 'High Street,' from the hood of an ice cream truck, young people gave, sold, and traded in quantities of chemicals and pills whose call letters have become familiar to their generation - MDA, LSD, THC, STP, DMT.

On a busy road near main office, hawkers intoned, I like hot dog salesmen in Shea Stadium, - "Get your white lightning," "Electric Kool-aid here." A cluster of competing marijuana dealers provided corncob pipes or swiftly rolled joints for customer to sample their wares. A price war had forced them down to $8 an ounce. Several said they had made hundreds of dollars.

"When there's no music, people tend to dope more." said Eric Franklin, an 18-year-old from Norfolk, Va., who was among many volunteers to calm those "on bad trips." Behind him, 30 people lay inside a red-and-white striped "O.D. tent."

"I just rap with them and deal with their paranoia," he said. "I tell them people aren't out to get them. Sometimes I hold their hand. The bad cases go to medical."

Inside the medical clinic, staffed by half a dozen volunteer doctors, there were many more cases of poison ivy than drug-induced paranoia. "It's really just like summer camp," said one doctor.

On the central bulletin board, next to signs asking for rides to Texas and Maine, are ads for the "free kitchen." This is the vast institution that is mainly responsible for feeding the thousands who came here with insufficient food. At all times of the day there are people moving slowly with outstretched plates past cauldrons filled with steaming vegetables, rice and oats.

The free kitchen began two weeks ago when John McDuffie and five friends invited two other early festival-campers to dinner.

"The next day we invited nine more, and the next day still more, and it grew to this, he said looking at the long line. The kitchen now has a staff of 25 volunteers who prepare and serve the food, much of it donated by those at the festival. The specialty of the house familia, a combination of oats, grains, wheat germ and raisins.

Mr. McDuffie said his main concern now is concocting "underground" routes for trucks to bring in more supplies past the police lines.

Yesterday morning, a 17-year-old girl from New York, whose name was given a Shelly Roland, went into labor. A path was quickly cleared for the ambulance along the tightly congested walkways.

This morning an announcement was made that she had had a 5 pound, 1 ounce baby girl at nearby Middlesex Memorial Hospital. "Everybody here's the godparents"- said the speaker, to cheers.

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