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



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Middletown Press: August 3, 1970


Injunction Violators Are Sought


It's over.

The festival that was illegal, the festival that had little music, the festival that had too many drugs, the festival that may have marked a turning point in the world of youth happenings — the festival is over, but the scattered pieces of the large picture are just beginning to be put together.

Judge Aaron I. Palmer—who originally barred the festival— this morning charged State's Atty. Vincent J. Scamporino to "investigate with deliberate care violations of the order of injunction" calling for action against the promoters and for a Connecticut statute to regulated [sic] future festivals.

The judge termed the Powder Ridge event as "the offensive events of the past week." and suggested that federal authorities should investigate and prosecute those responsible.

The ski area's owners, Louis and Herman Zemel, arrested Thursday for violating the injunction, appealed in Superior Court this morning, but their cases were continued until September. The case against Bill Hanley, who had been in charge of the festival's sound equipment, was dismissed.

Take Time

It will take time to pick up all the pieces - and the litter left at Powder Ridge - but the estimated 30,000 young people who came anyway to the banned festival have left.

In the end - despite the judge, despite the police, despite the Powder Ridge owners - they created their own "People's Pop Festival of Powder Ridge," inaugurated Friday night, and published their own "Powder Keg Nation," complete with a subsurface organization, a flag, free kitchens, a free store, free stages, drug "down" clinics and, in the, end, rock music.

The festival broke after midnight Saturday, and tents started coming down as early at 3 a.m. Sunday. By noon yesterday, less than 3000 remained. This morning, a few stragglers made their way out, leaving 1,500 veterans.

Drug Crackdown

The State Police used the opportunity offered by the mass exodus Sunday to crack down on drug venders. Undercover agents for the past week had spoted [sic] and photographed the larger operators, picking them up as they left the main gate.

By this morning, 73 narcotics arrests had been made, 56 by the Criminal Intelligence Division.

More than 70 youths awaited arraignment in Circuit Court; Nine early this afternoon.

The youths, have been held , at the Haddam jail, which had been empty since late last year.

The twelve girls arrested in connection with the festival were scheduled to be presented first.

During the festival State Police did not enter the Powder Ridge grounds to make arrests but waited for suspected drug users and sellers to pass through roadblocks established

at all entrances to Middlefield. Statistics can tell part of the story: 1,800 cars were towed away by 17 wreckers. Police made 19 arrests for hitch-hiking, and gave hitchers 107 warnings. Four were arrested for breach of peace, two for intoxication. Forty-six were arrested! on motor vehicle violations, with 36 warnings issued.

Medically, the Powder Ridge happening was close to a disaster. Dr. William Abruzzi said yesterday, before leaving the area, that 5,000 patients, were treated, but some authorities distrusted his figures.

Abruzzi listed 1,000 as "bad trips" on drugs, including a large number cases involving LSD mixed with strychnine.

Outside the Ridge, the medical situation was as bad. The "triage" unit established at Middlefield's Memorial School handled 175 patients, of whom 19 were sent to Middlesex Memorial. At least two were sent to Yale-New Haven.

A hospital spokesman said those treated at the triage unit included possibly two miscarriages, some back injuries, concussions, fractures, a bee sting that was so serious the man almost stopped breathing, a snake bite and a slashed wrist that required surgery,

At least eight more were admitted to the hospital last night, in addition, one girl was sent to Connecticut Valley Hospital for psychiatric care.

The American Red Cross unit treated 2,200 patients for such things as abrasions, puncture wounds, blisters and burn with many going on to the triage unit.

Of the 175 at the school, 60 per cent were suffering; from drug overdoses and bad trips.

The age range of patients was from seven years to 38, with a concentration between ages 16 and 21.

Up to 10 doctors manned the school unit, two the Red Cross truck. Several doctors, including one sent from Middlesex Memorial, were on duty inside Powder Ridge.

By agreement Saturday afternoon, an ambulance was stationed at all times inside the area.

One baby was born, Dina Amoure, to Peter and Shelley Rowland of New York City.

High on the ski slope at Powder Hill a blessing was given on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. and two people were pronounced wedded as Father John Hatch of Washington, Conn., performed the festivals only marriage.

The couple were identified as Pete Potter, 20, and Boni Douglas, 18, of Ansonia.

At least two fires occurred at Powder Ridge, both on Saturday. A truck caught fire Saturday afternoon, sending many festival-goers running up the slope to put it out. Saturday night, a late-model Pontiac inexplicably caught fire.

One major casualty occurred when Rita Katzman, 19, of Du-mont, N.J., was run over early Saturday morning when she fell! from a car she was riding on and another car rolled over her. At last report, she was in fair condition at Middlesex Memorial after six hours of surgery Saturday.

An important member of the festival cast, Jacob Belford, attorney for the Zemel brothers, owners of Powder Ridge, suffered what was described as a "major heart attack" shortly before a meeting between the Zemels and State's Atty. Vincent Scamporino in Middlefield Saturday afternoon. Belford is reported in fair condition at Yale-New Haven hospital.

The People's Festival had its ups and downs. Though being held responsible for the continued presence of the people, the Zemels were powerless to do much about it.

Taxes Due

State Tax Commissioner John Sullivan said today that he expects about $40,000 in taxes due for tickets sold and so far he hasn't got it.

Sullivan, who said he was at the site five times during the week, said he told the Zemel brothers that he is holding them jointly responsible for the tax payment and solely responsible for payment if the festival promoters cannot be found.

He said he told the Zemels that the state is due a 10 per cent fee on each $20 ticket or about $2 a ticket.

Out of chaos came a modicrum [sic] of organization. Groups called Number Nine, from New Haven, Rap from Massachusetts and Together from Rhode Island helped Dr. William Abruzzi's medical team "talk down" those on bad drug trips.

The free kitchen functioned on the hill crest opposite the main slope since mid-week. Numerous announcements made pleas for money, firewood, anybody who could cook brown rice. Those leaving Sunday dropped off their extra food, and by Sunday afternoon another free kitchen was set up by the edge of "Powder Puddle."

Eventually, yesterday, a free store was established on the ski slope, offering a variety of goods scavenged from the area. A sign listed the goods, including food, candy, utensils, band-aids.

Because the main stage could not be used, free stages were set up at various locations at various times. Local rock groups - possibly with an eye toward the resulting publicity-performed. Goodhill from Fairfield, Swan from New Haven, Pelba [Elba?] from New Haven, and the Mustard Family all performed,

Folksinger Melanie was the only scheduled artist to perform. She sang Friday night and was cheered to high heavens.

Key to the underground organization was a group of a dozen men called the Cosmic Lab, based in New Haven. Formed in March, the group has been to several other events and did their best at Powder Ridge to take control and make it the People's Festival.

Truck Wired

It was Cosmic Lab that got the free stage set up in a natural amphitheater near the main gate going. Mister Softee trucks were hooked in with Goodhill's electronic equipment, joined with generators sneaked into the site and there was music.

Cosmic Lab Members, most of them connected with Yale, manned the microphones and kept politics to a minimum. John Lavine, Yale '70, who came from Pennington, Long Island, explained that the group intended to "cooperate with almost everybody." They met frequently with the Zemels and their associated group, Hostile Organization to Destroy All Media Now (HOTDAMN) circulated a leaflet detailing what had happened to the festival and asking people to keep cool. Lavine called the event a "love festival" when the professional rock groups were barred. "It was a music festival that didn't come it," he said, "but that's a negative viewpoint. "Somehow the idea of People's festival is pretty good. It was so much a People's Festival that nobody was really sure who was in control, including those who said they were." Lavine said they could not move against the distributors of the LSD mixed with strychnine, but did take action against a heroin pusher.

Dick Satz, Princeton graduate, Yale law graduate, and Cosmic Lab member, called the future of festival's "somewhere between dim and grim." He suggested festivals would have to be "rethought" after the Powder Ridge semi-festival, and echoed others in a thought that somewhere there should be established an "earch [sic] people's park" offering a continuous festival. "Land has got a lot to do with it." Sata said. ''We'd celebrate a piece of land and keep the water unpolluted, a food system going and the "big money" promoters out. The legal "hassle" would be settled before anything got going.

For the survivors of the Powder Keg Nation - which was formed at the same time as a large flag emblazoned with "E Marijuana Unum" formed with bits and pieces of clothing - they were not so sure Powder Ridge was a bust.

"We were very disappointed' it didn't come off," explained a nurse at the first aid station. "But we made our own festival! We didn't need music to have it."

"It's good," said a youth who called himself "George Metesky," after the New York "mad bomber."

All Year Long

"It's the kind of thing you should have all year round - a few areas in the East, some in the West, one in Canada, and one in the South, too."

Edward Hickey, of Worcester, Mass., said the festival "had its problems" with drugs. He didn't think the lack of music had much to do with the "heavy scene" with drugs. "Dope has been a person's center of attraction" he said, and "it would have been about the same with music."

Dr. Abruzzi, who left with most of his equipment and volunteer doctors and nurses Sunday afternoon, was certain if the festival had not been banned, drug use would not have been as great.

"It was a matter of boredom and frustration." he said. At one time he even wrote out a prescription blank for a reporter. "Rx, Music," and said he had called the governor, the state's attorney, Judge Aaron J. Palmer and State Police Commissioner Leo Mulcahy to plead for music.

"The drug use was horrendous," Abruzzi said. "It's the responsibility of the promoters, and the legal authorities in insisting on the letter of the injunction. They bear serious responsibility for whatever happened." He added, "Festivals are really dead. Society cant understand why kids want to do what they want to do, so they can't find a way for them to do it. "

"Maybe it's a message to all of us that we have to let the kids do what they want. We're still dealing with young minds. Our responsibility is to find put why they're so uptight, so frustrated. There's no doubt in my mind that sites could be found where festivals could be held, where the whole thing could come off without destruction of private property"

Few Trickle out

This morning, a few still trickled put of the site, leaving the detritus of a temporary civilization. A few were staying around to help clean up. A few planned to stay.

"I'm going to stay here build a house, get married, raise a family, and if they want me off they'll have to kick me off," said one boy who declined to give his name to a reporter "By the way if you find a chick who for six days stood near the me know." [sic]

Hall Ennis of Fairlawn, N.J.,-who for six days stood near the ski lodge telling everybody to smile - "thousands did" he said - was asked what the festival crowd this morning were calling the site.

"A lot of people are calling it home," he said with a smile,

Powder Ridge operator Louis Zemel appeared relieved Sunday afternoon as he, made a quick auto tour. He was pleased with the townspeople's general attitude, saying "after they slammed the door, they opened up their hearts.

He had heard reports of people staying up all night Saturday making sandwiches to pass out to those leaving. He was interested in some townspeople selling ears of corn (two for a quarter) and big slices of watermelon (one for 25 cents).

He was mainly concerned with the litter along some town road. Two trucks were sent out Sunday morning but as he surveyed the junk, he commented "I can see we'll have to get anything that rolls." Half an hour after arriving back, a Cosmic Lab man reported a truckload of people had been sent out to begin stuffing plastic bags.

By this morning, only bits and pieces of paper and cans were seen along Powder Hill Road and Rt.147.

Saturday night many Middlefield residents joined those still flowing into Powder Ridge on the long walk up. Some interviewed later said they were particularly upset about the drugs and the open sex.

Sunday afternoon, some tourists staying at Happy Acres, also on Powder Hill Road, wandering in to see what was happening "Mother" called a out a man to his wife, both wearing striped shirts and shorts, "what do you want? LSD?"

Asked his general view of the - festival, Zemel commented "It's a mixed bag. Anybody who's dogmatic about this is a nut" He later came up with some adjectives, "Awesome; frightening, hopeful."

Betty Zemel who spent one night off the site to get some sleep, commented Sunday, "The more bodies I see moving in that direction, the happier I am"

By all appearances, so was everyone else, including the townspeople and the festival-goers themselves. The consensus of the crowd was that there were good times - mostly at night - but it was mostly bad because there wasn't any music, there was little organization and there were too many bad drug trips.

Angry words were heard about the promoters and about Judge Palmer and the slightly defiant, slightly disappointed attitude of the crowd may have been summed up by one girl.

"This was a step up from the Woodstock Nation because this was illegal. It's part of the revolution. We're here and you can't mess with us. There was no music, but we can still dig each other."

But she too was packing up to leave, and she did



Rockfest '70 © Robb Strycharz, 1998-2006
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