Iowa Held Its Own Woodstock-Style Festival Over 50 Years Ago
Everyone has heard about the iconic Woodstock Music Festival back in 1969, but did you know that Iowa had its own big music festival just one year later?
Wadena, Iowa is a small Northeast Iowa town located in Fayette County. And when we say small, we really mean it! Wikipedia reports that the population in 2021 was just over 200 people. It's hard to believe that that tiny Iowa town once hosted between 40,000 and 50,000 music fans for a big three-day festival!
Back in 1970, a music festival called the Wadena Rock Festival took place at Clarence Schmitt Farm, a 220-acre farm just west of Wadena. From July 31st to August 2nd, thousands of people made their way to the area to see 30 different musical acts. But, Wadena wasn't the location that event organizers initially wanted for the festival. According to the Des Moines Register, it was originally supposed to be located in Galena, but the promoters were forbidden from setting up in the city. That's why the Wadena Rock Festival was also called "Galena in Wadena." Politicians in Iowa tried to stop the festival, too, including Iowa's governor Robert Ray, but the attempts were unsuccessful.
There were quite a few notable artists who played the Wadena Rock Festival in the summer of 1970. Little Richard, the Guess Who, the Flying Burrito Brothers, and Iowa-natives the Everly Brothers all got up on stage to perform. In addition to live music, the Cedar Rapids Gazette reports that the event had plenty of hippies, drugs, alcohol, skinny-dipping, and sno-cones.
When the festival came to an end on Sunday, the event's promotor Sound Storm's legal battles were just beginning. According to the Gazette:
"Sound Storm was slapped with a $1,041,550 lawsuit because Attorney General Richard Turner said 'everything Sound Storm Inc. has done has been illegal from start to finish.' The $1 million was for punitive damages, the rest to cover the expenses of law enforcement and staff of the attorney general and county attorney's offices."
It appears that all they ended up paying was $22,500.
You can check out more photos from the Wadena Rock Festival HERE.