Plaque to Commemorate the Long, Strange Trip that was Mississippi River Festival

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Concertgoers circa the late 1970s. - WWW.SIUE.EDU
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  • Concertgoers circa the late 1970s.
Bob Dylan. The Band. Grateful Dead. Janice Joplin. The Who. B.B. King. The Eagles. And many more.

All played at the Mississippi River Festival -- an outdoor music venue on the campus of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville that from 1969 to 1980 hosted hundreds of the nation's biggest rock and contemporary performers.

Now -- nearly 30 years after its last show -- SIUE alumni plan to commemorate the overgrown field that hosted the concerts with a plaque. The marker will recognize the 353 shows and 1.5 million visitors who attended concerts at the venue during its eleven year run.

Originally built as summer home for the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, the venue grew out of favor with the symphony in the mid-70s just as more and more rock groups signed on to play on the outdoor stage. The concerts -- by all accounts -- were raucous with rampant drug and alcohol abuse.   

At one point, drug use at the shows escalated to the point that a volunteer group "Acid Rescue" formed to help concertgoers recover from "bad trips" without the assistant of law enforcement and university officials.

The fate of MRF was ultimately sealed with the death in 1976 of university president -- and advocate of the concert series -- John Rendleman. A new administration never warmed up to the festival and killed it following the 1980 season.

For more information on MRF, check out the links and videos in SIUE's digital archives.

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