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Iowa’s Woodstock, the 1970 Wadena Rock Festival


I WAS 21 YEARS OLD and those three days are locked in my memories forever…the sounds, the smells, the electricity in the air, the friends, the music. It was magic…and I would write about it later—“To a time when only dreams had the power to transcend and bring us together, beyond the unrest, one by one as friends.  Kindred souls, sharing a moment, bound by love and freedom. Moved by the words and music…we danced to a different drum.”

Today in Wadena you don’t sense that 40 years ago this area was site of Iowa’s milestone rock festival with nearly 40,000 attending the three-day event, July 31-Aug. 2, 1970—Mason Proffitt, Johnny Winter, Little Richard, The Everly Brothers, Joan Baez, REO Speedwagon, POCO, Buffy Ste. Marie, Luther Allison & Albert King, The Flying Burrito Brothers.

Johnny Rivers – “Seventh Son”


4 Responses to Iowa’s Woodstock, the 1970 Wadena Rock Festival

  • Gary Campana says:

    I was there. One year out of college, 23, working as a copywriter. Four of us left Chicago Friday afternoon with food and drink in a cooler and a two man tent. We arrived late Friday and stayed until Sunday afternoon. Perhaps there were 40,000 people but it never seemed like it. I took 12 minutes of silent movie film — expensive for the time. Viewed the film today. Not bad. I had a great time. Ahh. To be that age again.

  • C L Gillmore says:

    I absolutely loved reading your brief Wadena account, Gary. It still amazes me that I was there. I can close my eyes and remember the sites and sounds of that weekend so vividly. I drove up from Iowa City with friends in a red, two seater, MG midget convertible. Would love to see your silent movie. I have about 20 pictures I took that weekend that I treasure. Some of them are on my website…you probably recognized them. And yes…to be young and just starting out again. I would relive that weekend over and over. Thanks for your comments. I hope you’ll stop back soon! CL

  • A. L. McClinsey says:

    Two friends and I came from Galesburg Illinois for the festival. I was 17 at the time and loved every minute of it. I remember the weather being a bear though and had a real good sunburn to prove it. My friends left Saturday and were heading to California but I stayed for the full festival. Nothing was going to keep me from seeing The Guess Who. I can’t say I remember every minute of the festival, “fun” being free and abundant. But many acts stick out in my mind. Albert King, Johnny Winters, The Chambers Brothers, Rotary Connection, The Everly Brothers, Mason Profit, and many more. Being a visual kind of guy, and knee deep in acid most of the time, I also loved the, crude by today’s standards, projected art effects.

  • gary skinner says:

    I drove a VW bug from Des Moines to Wadena, early Sat. Morn. There were six of us squeezed into that thing! We arrived at the farm around 10AM. I remember having to park a long way from the concert, but we didn’t care we were young. There were some really good bands and singers at the event, and I recall everyone being well behaved, much to everyones suprise. I stayed till it was over on Sunday, and drove back to Des Moines Sunday night. I just remember two of us driving back, and I don’t remember what the heck happened the the other four that drove up with us, guess they must of hitched a ride with someone else. I was 18, and witnessed and participated in a lot of things new to me at the time. It was a sweet time. I just wish I would of thought to bring a camera! Oh and a tent and sleeping gear and food would of been nice.

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