SPRINGFIELD, Mo- It’s been 50 years since Woodstock, arguably the most famous music festival of all time, influenced how live music was appreciated by generations of people.
Over the years many festivals have been inspired by Woodstock. You have Lollapalooza, Coachella, and Bonnaroo, plus many more that aren’t as famous… like the one in this story.
Another festival inspired by the peace, love, and rock & roll fest was here in Missouri in 1974, the Ozark Music Festival.
Oddly enough, you might say the festival ended up being the opposite of the peace, love, and rock & roll.
“I’ve given talks about it over the past several years. I’ve had people walk out of the auditorium crying,” says Jeff Lujin founder of Dust Bin Films.
Lujin, who says he’s been researching the music festival for a documentary he hopes to release someday, told Ozarks First there are still a lot of people upset by what happened at the Ozarks Music Festival back in ‘74.
So what happened?
According to a report released by the Missouri Senate in 1974, “the scene on the grounds at Sedalia made the degradation of Sodom and Gomorrah appear to be rather mild.”
Throughout the report, the Highway Patrol is sourced as giving first-hand accounts of what troopers saw during the festival.
According to the senate committee report, the company in charge of the festival (Musical Productions, Inc.) hired on Wells Fargo to run security. The report says Wells Fargo employees were told to monitor, “just prevent hassles'” and, ” don’t bust anybody.”
The report says Wells Fargo recruited students from Missouri State University Warrensburg to help with security.
In the days leading up to the festival, the Senate report says, things were already getting out of hand.
According to the report, Missouri State Highway Patrol and other law enforcement agencies were asked to get involved with security.
Highway Patrol reports it sent six undercover agents inside the fairgrounds, many of those agents later relayed their accounts (you can read them on pages 32-49 of the full Senate report).
While undercover, those agents reported seeing a lot of drug use.
“One undercover agent described the activity as operating ‘in the same manner as a concessionaire would operate at a public sporting event,'” the report says.
Along with the drugs came drug overdoses. Medical crews on hand say 90% of their patients were from drug overdoses and some were sent to area hospitals by ambulance.
Businesses in the area were also impacted by the festival.
The Pittsburgh-Corning Plant was forced to stop production due to traffic backups. The report issued by the Missouri Senate committee says employees of the plant couldn’t get to and from work.
Other business like the State Fair Shopping Center and the Holiday Inn in Sedalia suffered damages. The shopping center reported it lost around 30 shopping carts over the weekend.
And if drugs and massive crowds of people weren’t bad enough, picture most of that happening while people were naked.
According to the Senate report, temperatures on Saturday and Sunday of the festival were very warm. As a result, people started taking off their clothes.
Prostitution was also a concern. According to the Senate report, people remember being offered sexual acts for the price of $2. One undercover agent reported seeing sexual acts being performed in front of a large group of people.
How did this happen in Sedalia?
According to the Senate report, Chris Fritz, Sal Brancato, and Robert Shaw were the three top dogs at Musical Producitons, Inc. They wanted to host a Woodstock-like music festival and thought Sedalia was a prime location for it.
After some back-and-forth with the Department of Agriculture and other involved agencies, the show was on.
According to the Senate report, Musical Productions, Inc. (MPI) promoted the festival across the country with the help of an ad in Rolling Stone and the support of an influential and nationally recognized radio DJ known as of Wolfman Jack (who, according to undercover Highway Patrol troopers, would make an appearance at the concert and encourage nudity among female festival-goers).
MPI promoted the festival to the state of Missouri and the City of Sedalia as a “bluegrass festival” with a max of 50,000 tickets.
While MPI did book bluegrass acts, the bill would also include Aerosmith, The Eagles, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and several other popular hard rock bands.
The event had more than double the projected attendance with around 150,000.
While the Ozarks Music Festival did its best to duplicate the more-than-music feeling of Woodstock, today’s accounts of the Missouri-based festival prove it will primarily be regarded as a mar on the “peace and love” movement of the ’60s.
“There’s a lot of romanticism about Woodstock and I think the Ozark Music Festival stripped that away,” says Jeff Lujin, “[It was] a wake-up call to the industry of what could go wrong.”
At its best, the Ozark Music Festival will likely be seen as a reminder that there’ll never be another Woodstock.