40th Anniversary of Eatonville’s Rock Festival


Eatonville Rock Festival40 years ago, in the summer of 1970, Eatonville was gearing up for the Buffalo Party Convention and pig roast at Buffalo Don Murphy’s Flying M Ranch, east of town. It was supposedly a political gathering, but everyone knew what it really was — a rock festival.

I was in first grade at the time and even from my six-year-old perspective I could tell the townspeople were seriously worked up. Woodstock had taken place the summer before and people had images of thousands of hippies with their drugs and everything else that goes along with a rock festival.

Rock Festival, Eatonville (Dispatch photo)
Rock Festival, Eatonville (Dispatch photo)

Right before the event, a preliminary injunction was filed in Superior Court prohibiting “further advertising, opening, ticket selling, operating, or in any way furthering and having the event called the Buffalo Party Convention and Pig Roast.”  But the word was already out and neither the injunction nor the roadblocks put up by the police stopped Eatonville’s rock festival.

Police, townspeople and businesses got ready for the worst. My dad was even hired by the Eatonville School District to guard to the grounds from vandalism. He had a billy club, which he jokingly referred to as his “hippy cruncher”.

Eatonville Rock Festival Ticket
Eatonville Rock Festival Ticket

A man who attended the event posted on the web: “I hitch-hiked from Portland, Ore. Arrived in Eatonville late at night and the police were directing traffic through town, trying to tell us to go back where we came from, the festival is cancelled! We went around in circles through town like a parade. The locals were out on the sidewalks waving and we were waving back.  . . . the next day they let us in on the festival grounds ’cause there were just too many people to deal with.”

Swimming at the Eatonville Rock Festival (Dispatch Photo)
Swimming at the Eatonville Rock Festival (Dispatch Photo)

On a rather disgusting note, because of the injunction, the portable restrooms never arrived and attendees had to make due with one out building and a large ditch.

Despite the crowds, lack of restrooms and roadblocks, the three-day event held on the 4th of July weekend was more peaceful than rebellious. The Dispatch reported somewhere between 10,000 and 30,000 people attended and although drugs were openly sold at the three-day event, the only real damage to property was a car collision at Center Street and Washington.

Merchants and residents stated that, “the long haired youths were courteous, polite and considerate.”  It also appears the hippies turned out to be somewhat of a spectator sport. More than a few residents have told me they managed to get up there to take a look around.

Who played at the rock festival? James Cotton? Clear Light? No one seems to know for sure.

(Photos appeared in the Eatonville Dispatch.)


183 responses to “40th Anniversary of Eatonville’s Rock Festival”

  1. Hi I left a comment here last night about my time at the festival. I was wondering why it hasn’t posted yet.

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  2. Been coming to this thread for years to read everyone’s stories. And reading about you writing a script/book gives me goosebumps. Very cool.

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    • Great. Just talked to someone about filming yesterday. 🙂 Trying to get ducks lined up and hopefully people to interview. 🙂

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      • I would be more then willing to be interviewed. I am going to be 71 this June but still have most of my mental facilities intact so could add some of my remembrances.

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  3. been a long time and at 65 years old it’s good to see that there’s more ole dinosaurs like myself who were there at this most amazing event!I was at that roadblock that was kicked over,stood in front of Joe McDonald as he sang what was our theme song in basic training “one two three what are we fight’n for?don’t ask me cause I don’t give a damn! Next stop is Viet-Nam!etc: and the cooliest part was when some planes flew over and dropped out sky divers and one of them lit right on top of Country Joes amp as he was singing that song! I was honorably discharged from the us army in feb of 1969…was a long haired freedom lov’in radical hippy before the forced haircut and remain a long hair still I’m happy to say! I lived walked talked and breathed the sixties to the best of my abilities and I LOVE the Truth being told about how it really was then! I was happy then with a Guitar a sleeping bag and a leather jacket nomatter where I was or who I was with and this concert was my first ever major music event although I was a musician myself and still am so YES! the music was my reason for being there!It was rumored that Hendrix was gonna be there and Janis too but I never seen either! Since this concert was ordered to be called off by the government of the state of Washington {thus the road blocks} being our creative rebellious youth of the day we just pushed the concert up a day ahead and caught em with their pants down ya might say? while they were still trying to set up a perimeter of highway patrol and national guard troops to block us off! UNITED WE STOOD! and it WORKED!!should’a seen the looks on their faces when they ordered us not to go any further down the road and somebody yelled who are you GOD or Something? and the whole crowd just walked right on through the barricades, cops and all! anyway I’m gett’in kinda long winded here and I love talking about those days gone by sure glad I just stumbled across this site this morning! I hitch-hiked by the way from my home in the black hills of south Dakota to this concert with 4 friends. I hope this is seen by others and I’ll look forward to reading more of their memories! This true story is as plain to me as yesterday! Anyone reading this (who’s over 50)will understand the difference between short term and long term memories?? Ha! Ha! one works much better than the other! It’s up to you to figure out which is which? Good Luck!

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    • This is wonderful. You can be as longwinded as you want. Do you live around the area? I’m looking at shooting a documentary this summer about the event. Would love to include you. 🙂

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    • Hi, Just wanted to say thank you for sharing these memories. We’re putting together a documentary right now on the rock festival. If you available to be interviewed, please let me know. Diane 🙂

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    • Marvin,
      I was there as well.
      I forgot about the sky divers, thanks for the memory trigger.
      I was 19 at the time and remember the great music, going down to the river, etc.
      What a summer!!
      Be well,
      Kevin McGivern

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  4. Two friends and I, all from Kansas, were in Seattle for the summer, saw a poster and volunteered our construction skills to work on setup for the “convention.” We camped in relative isolation down by the creek for several days before and during the festival. I helped string some very iffy electric lines from the little house (used as medical HQ during the event) to the vendor booths, and later set up scaffolding for the stage and tried to keep people off the big generators that were brought in for the sound and stage lights. As I recall, the eventual headliners were James Cotton and Fever Tree. My best memories include munchies satisfied with raspberries, nymphs dancing under the waterfalls, learning to drink black coffee poured from a campfire percolator, and an evening with the camp cook. Breakfast was late…

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  5. Finally officially going ahead with the documentary. Website is wwww.eatonvillerockfestival.com and there’s a Facebook page too (Buffalo Rock). Looking forward to talking to everyone. 🙂

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  6. I arrived late on Friday afternoon with two friends from Tacoma and we found the entrance to the festival was blocked. We drove part way back down the road and parked the car on a shoulder that we found and climbed down an embankment and hiked in. The police moved the road block down to the bottom of the hill near town so we went back and got the car later that night, not a soul was on the road. All through the night 100s of folks came through and by Saturday morning the place was filling up and starting to look like a rock festival.

    I was sitting down along the falls when the man fell to his death. At the time we didn’t know someone had fallen from the upper falls until someone approached us and told we needed to move so they could bring a body up down below. The body was placed on a stretcher and was covered. They had a group of search and rescue folks using ropes to pull the stretcher out of the canyon.

    Shortly after the event there was was a TV news segment about a local law enforcement employee who tried without any success to determine the identity of this individual to no avail. Money was raised and he is buried in a Pierce County cemetery which I think was located in the Puyallup area. Somewhere out there’s a family wondering whatever happened to their son or brother. I know they searched the database for missing persons but nothing ever came up.

    If you want to research this further I would start with the NW Room at the Tacoma Public Library in downtown Tacoma. The NW Room holds newspaper and other archival material and they have a helpful staff. They also have thousand of photos on line that might include the Buffalo Party.

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      • I got your email request the other day and I’ll contact you. I went to NW Room and found a news folder on the event.

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  7. Hello friends: My best pal and I went to the piano drop and all three Sky River Festivals. When the Buffalo Party was announced we made plans to go but ended up thinking the festival wouldn’t come off. We took off in his 58 Bug for Montana and Glacier Park. Two days after we arrived we got word it was on and we made it back. I will never forget the airplane flying over and dropping notices that we were all in trouble for disregarding the injunction against the event. Hilarious. Great memories. We were such lucky people to have experienced those moments! Peace to all and SAVE THE CHILDREN… VOTE!

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      • I was one of the “weird people” who attended the convention. Fresh out of the Army, and ready to party. A couple of years later, I ended up in Lester, Washington where there lived a retired school teacher I only knew as “Mrs. Murphy.” Somebody told me that it was her son who threw the Buffalo Party Convention. I wonder if that’s true. In any case, Lester is gone now. The last surviving resident was Mrs. Murphy.

        I sold trinkets and Oregon cigarettes during the convention to raise some dough. The trinkets did OK, but the cigarettes were a huge success. (I had done the same at Sky River II the year before. Made a lot of money on bootleg cigarettes. LOL)

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      • Thank you for sharing this! I’m not sure if it was Mrs. Murphy’s son. I can try to check where his mother lived. — By the way, what were the “trinkets”?

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      • Just sat on the ground (on a blanket.) Very casual. No closing time. No opening time. Got whoever was walking by to watch my stuff if I needed a short break. The first day or so, there was no place to “go” since the county had set up a roadblock and kept the porta-potties out. The woods were littered with white “flags.” At some point, a plane flew over and dropped thousands of leaflets notifying us that we were all under arrest. Somebody on the stage suggested that we all go turn ourselves in – after the event, of course. What a hoot. It wasn’t as good as Sky River II the year before, or Monterey Pop a couple of years earlier, but it was a good time. Good Luck with the documentary. Cheers.

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  8. I was there as well..I was suppose to meet friends there ,but they never showed up…I was 16 years old and alone.The weather was beautiful and the people were in good form.It was by far the best festival I attended…Satsop was cold and raining..It was truly amazing…

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  9. I was there! I remember alot of nude people, good music and drugs. lots of drugs.I had a blast. I lived in Kapowsin,Wa and was 13 or 14 years old at the time. Was the band Red Bones there?

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  10. I attended the Buffalo Party Convention.
    Fever Tree is a group I recall the most clearly. They were GOOD!
    Having attended the Seattle Pop festival and Sky River Festival previously I recall perceiving that the laid back, peace, love atmosphere felt somewhat compromised by (among other things) the clear presence of alcohol and speed.
    Regardless, swimming in the small river, great music and more makes it a memory to enjoy.

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  11. I was 17 and the day I took my last class in a high school in my small town, i hitchhiked to Portland. We heard about this and I went with an older dude who had wheels and parked in a long line and got in. I think I never found him at the end and hitchhiked back,
    My question for anyone who knows – a blues band played in the evening, Im guessing saturday night. A relatively young black male guitarist was absolutely ripping it up. As he seemed to be headlining his band, I dont think it was James Cotton’s band. Does anyone know who it is?

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  12. I remember being really stoned on pot or acid or something. My girl friend Linda and I were sitting by the lake watch and tripping on the people. I think it was the 2nd day. There were lots of naked people. There were two local guys walking and around the lake watching. They were drinking beer for a while. Then they came around maybe on the 4th or 5th time smoking pot. By this time their hats were off. After another 5 or 6 times their shirts were off. Finally, i could tell that maybe they were tripping or something, they came around wearing only their shoes and socks. Linda and I really felt that this was an amazing instance of the power of all the good vibes. People like these two guys who had probably come not really liking the hippies, finally felt good about the party and joined right in. This is what we thought at least.

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  13. I was an 18-year-old hippie hitchhiker up from the Bay Area with a group of Portland State kids I’d met in the Washington Park. We arrived Friday night in a VW van and found our way in past the cops.

    The next morning, I awoke to people screaming. They were panicking over a scarlet kingsnake which, after I crawled out of my sleeping bag, I rescued from them by grabbing it behind its head. As I walked up to find it a safe place, people were complimenting me on my “bracelet.” I found some bushes and released it. Before it slithered away, it turned back to me, flicked out its tongue as if to say in snake, “Thanks, dude.”

    The bushes were blackberries and I ate my fill and then gathered up more in my T-shirt, which I soon traded for hash browns and eggs. After breakfast, I wandered down to where people were gathering in front of a stage, at which point a guy asked me, “Do you want to make some money?” Since I had maybe a couple of bucks in change that a candy machine had disgorged a couple of days before, I was definitely in. He was selling corn on the cob for a buck an ear. Actually, I was doing the selling as he was doing the cooking. After he ran out, I was $34 richer, which was the most money I’d had in months,

    Out at one of the ponds, there were a lot of naked women, so I joined them. There were bands playing but I was 18 and full of juice, so I stayed with the naked ladies. I’m pretty sure Country Joe did I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die Rag. One of my Portland State friends joined me. She had on a bikini bottom and a leather vest, but was so cute that I lost interest in the other women.

    Later on, I ran into some friends from Orange County who were selling Red-White-&-Blue Mescaline and they fronted me 100 hits. After that, I don’t remember much more of the convention, except I got a ride back in to Portland with my friends after it was over and had $134–almost all in ones–in my bell bottom jeans.

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