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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.)