I have been thinking of this since I saw a story about Woodstock on VH1 last week. A lot of my memories of this were just a haze, but they were some of the happiest I remember. Even though this will give away my age, I wanted to tell the story. With my friends help and some on-line research, I think I got it right.
It was the summer of 1973, I had just gotten over a long, serious, illness and thought that some thing different and enjoyable would be just what I needed. The family of a good friend owned a cottage on one of the Finger Lakes in New York and I planned on vacationing with them the end of July. Since my friend and I were officially adults, we were allowed to make the long trip from Indiana without the watchful eye of parents.
We found out that while we were up in New York there was going to be a small rock festival about 50 miles from where we would be. It was called Summer Jam , a one day event at the race track in Watkins Glen, N.Y. It was to take place the 28th of July, three bands were to play: The Grateful Dead, The Band and The Almond Brothers, three of our favorites. Of course we would go! Of course I wouldn’t tell my parents!
It would be fun. We would set out for the fest the AM of the 27th. Though they were expecting 100,000 people at the concert, Watkins Glen, being home to a racing event, was used to big crowds. There were concessions, and Port-a-Potties will as medical facilities if we needed it. No problem. So we arranged to be dropped off at the main street in Watkins Glen, we would walk to the racetrack, and purchase tickets at the gate. We would be picked up at the same place when the concert was over.
We got ready by purchasing back packs, that we bleached so they wouldn’t look new, and packed some meager supplies and bologna sandwiches. We had a blanket. I wore a halter top and jeans, but brought an old plaid shirt I found in the rags, because we were staying the night and I might get chili. Someone told me I would be glad if I brought a straw hat, to keep the sun off my head. So I did . Completely hippied out in attire, we set out for the fest.
We just followed the crowd, and it seemed we walked for miles. We never did see a gate. Someone in the crowd said that it was a free concert now, because someone cut a hole on the fence. There were cars abandoned on the highway. It was going to be as big as Woodstock.
To me, the small town girl(and a bit of a goody-goody), it seemed like we were in a parade. There were people selling pipes and things from the trunk of their car. There was a pick up truck on which someone had built a log cabin, complete with a back porch where people sat smiling probably because they didn’t have to walk all that way. I remember being so very tired and the stupid hat just bothered me. I threw the hat down. Thirty seconds later someone came running up handing me the hat "here, you dropped your hat" I said thanks, but dropped it again, only to have some other polite hippie do the same thing. About the forth time, I was successful at getting rid of my hat.
We finally got to our destination we spread out blanket out about 150 feet from the stage. Others did that too, that was to be our home for the weekend. After a short rest, we ate our bologna sandwiches and drank some of the water that we were lucky to get. A can of tuna fish was being passed around from somewhere, we scooped a bite out of the can and passed it on.
We wandered up to the stage, where I stood in awe looking at this guy wearing a diaper of sorts and a guitar, dancing around, apparently in a trance. There were also girls in white dresses, and no underwear twirling around to the strains of recorded music of Jefferson Airplane and others. We stood there staring awhile and decided we had better take out seats, as we heard that the bands were going to play soon for a sound check.
The sound check lasted the rest of the afternoon and long into the night. Apparently we fell asleep somehow, and when we awoke the were people everywhere. Although people respected our space somewhat, our blanket seemed to be the most direct way to the stage. Soon after we were awakened, it started to rain, and so we left. So did lots of others. I remember walking down a hill to the town, dripping wet. We found our ride and while waiting for them we met a guy from Indiana who failed to meet up with his people and gave him a ride all the way to I-65 (about, I don’t know , 1000 miles).
Yes, it was like Woodstock. The crowd was bigger, we had our own rainstorm with lots of mud and lots of hippie looking people. But it was a different time, it probably will never make the History books like Woodstock did. The Vietnam war was over, and people just wanted to have a good time without protests and politicizing. Which, I think, we all did, all 600,000 of us!