Woodstock (or Altamont) in the Ozarks -- The 35th Anniversary


  • ozarkmusicfestivalexhibit.com
The Ozark Music Festival kicked off 35 years ago last Saturday, July 18, at the Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia. Concert promoters had assured Sedalians that they would be hosting a "soft rock" festival with 50,000 spectators.

Instead, 160,000 people (and that's a conservative estimate) showed up to watch Lynyrd Skynyrd, Ted Nugent, Bachman Turner Overdrive, the Eagles, Jefferson Starship, Aerosmith and, at the very bottom of the bill, in small letters, Bob Seger and Bruce Springsteen. They were lured by a full-page ad in Rolling Stone and a plug from Wolfman Jack's radio show that promised "No hassles, guaranteed."

Unlike at Woodstock six years earlier, there was no rain in Sedalia that weekend. Instead there were 100-degree temperatures, severe overcrowding and a breakdown in the campground's drinking water supply which inspired many festival-goers to abandon their clothes. There were also, as befitted a 70s rock festival, plenty of drugs, as well as $100,000 worth of property damage (including two steers belonging to a local farmer, which were slaughtered and butchered), 1,000 drug overdoses and 1 death.

Upon the conclusion of the three-day festival, the Missouri State Senate formed a Select Committee to investigate the event. The panel's investigation concluded, as reported by the Associated Press:
The scene on the grounds at Sedalia made the degradation of Sodom and Gommorrah appear to be rather mild. Natural and unnatural sex acts became a "spectator sport." Sex orgies were openly advertised... The fairgrounds' underpass was transformed into an Oriental Bazaar where all forms of hard drugs were sold. Motorcycle gangs perpetrated acts of extortion, rape and physical violence.
The committee subsequently recommended that no further rock festivals be held in Sedalia, a ban which has been upheld to this day, although several of the acts have returned to perform at the Missouri State Fair. (The musicians, not the "natural and unnatural sex acts.")

Since then, Sodom and Gommorrah of the Ozarks has largely been forgotten. But this year, some Sedalians have decided to memorialize the event with a special exhibit at Katy Depot, up until December.

If you don't feel like getting off the couch, you can read Rod Sievers' tender reminiscences here.

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