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January 2011



THE POWDER RIDGE ROCK FESTIVAL
Middlefield, Connecticut
30 July - 2 August 1970

What was planned as the Second Woodstock to have taken place in the summer of 1970 was cancelled by the nervous local officials with court orders. The local officials in Middlefield, Connecticut didnít believe they or the surrounding communities could support and manage the projected 30,000 young visitors who wanted another great happening and concert weekend. Some of the biggest names in the world of rock including Joe Cocker, Allman Brothers, Janis Joplin, Sly and the Family Stone, James Taylor, Van Morrison, Little Richard, Richie Havens, Jethro Tull and many other top musicians were scheduled. However, the musicians were told not to show up in the days before the festival was to have begun. Even though there were some news releases about this cancellation more than 25,000 youngsters showed up anyway. They had paid for their tickets in advance and were going to Powder Ridge - hell or high water.

Magnum Photographer Leonard Freed was in Amsterdam, Holland during the time of the 1969 Woodstock Festival. He had just moved back to New York in 1970 when he heard about the Powder Ridge Rock Festival and wasnít going to miss this one for anything. As the festival was officially cancelled Leonard Freed became one of the few professional photographers who became a part of this amazing event and he recorded key scenes for the historical record. Some of these photographs were found in Freedís personal collection and have never been shown to the public before. Freed died in 2006.

So, during the last week of July in 1970 thousands of hippies, rock lovers, and druggies headed to the 300-Acre Powder Ridge Ski Resort that was located near the center of Connecticut. The nearest town was Middlefield which had a population of about 4,000 people. The weekend of great music never happened. Most of the thousands of visitors had not been aware of the eventís cancellation. The communities did not welcome the young concert goers. The State Police were there but they did not prevent the cars, buses and hitchhikers from entering the Powder Ridge Site. The State Police were hugely outnumbered and made no attempts to evict the youth. They just looked on and away as the thousands of visitors set up their tents, removed their clothes and smoked pot. The owners of the Powder Ridge Resort tried to hire alternative bands, but the authorities banned any concert from happening and food and water trucks were prevented from supplying the crowds. Although there were no cell phones or Internet at that time, the concert goers learned a lesson from the previous yearís Woodstock so they brought lots of extra bread and spam to eat. Some of the surrounding home owners became sympathetic towards the peaceful crowds and let their water hoses run as the temperatures rose to a heat wave. This crowd was going to have their own Peopleís Festival.

Powder Ridge became a festival of friendship, drugs and sex. Youth from California connected with new friends from Virginia and New York. Marijuana and LSD were used openly and shared. Volunteer physicians showed up to help the kids on bad trips. As the days went on without any music, drug abuse became a more serious problem. Some of the doctors who had been at Woodstock and other music festivals commented to the press that they had to treat more bad LSD trips at Powder Ridge. Among the problems were the Fire Water Barrels where festival goers were invited to add some of their drugs thus creating unknown drug cocktails.

The heat, rain, shortages of food and sanitary facilities and no organized events left the concert goers somewhat depressed as the days went on. As opposed to the happy and muddy Woodstock crowd, a large percentage of the thousands of Powder Ridge crowd appeared downtrodden according to the various reporters. Still, the intense camaraderie over those few days in 1970 remain for some a significant life event.

Almost 30,000 young persons prepaid $20 for their festival tickets. The promoters who were forced to cancel the Powder Ridge Rock Festival announced plans to reschedule. However, the promoters disappeared and no refunds were ever issued.

Leonard Freed captured much of the festival as is exhibited below and at the BRILL GALLERY - some of these photographs are being shown to the public for the first time. We are very pleased to expose these amazing photographs to the Powder Ridge Generation and their kids on the festivalís 40th anniversary.

BRILL GALLERY
Ralph Brill, Director


GALLERY

LEONARD FREED BIOGRAPHY



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