A very different use of a Hall double chairlift. Photo by Leonard Freed.
POWDER HILL SKI AREA Middlefield, Connecticut – Home of Early Bird Skiing. 3 Chair Lifts, 2 T-Bars, Tows, Ski School, Night Skiing, Snow Making, Steak House and Cocktail Lounge. Overnight Lodging. Pre-1970 postcard, photo by Clifford Scofield.
A couple weeks ago at Elephant’s Trunk Flea Market, I came across this reproduction concert poster for the ill-fated 1970 music festival at Powder Ridge Ski Area in Middlefield, Connecticut. I was surprised and delighted with the find and also thought it would make for a varied yet quick blog post. Well, I was wrong about the quick part – I am totally lost in what was intended to be cursory research of this event.
Growing up just a couple towns away from Powder Ridge, the festival has always been a bit of local lore but I never stopped to find out the specifics. To me, it was primarily of interest because of the ski area venue. I am very late to realize, nearly 44 years after the fact, that this disaster of a festival was national news.
The short version – in the wake of Woodstock, the three days of music at Powder Ridge was poised to be the next big festival — a roster of top billed acts helped sell 100,000 $20 tickets — just days before the start of the festival, the concerned residents of tiny Middlefield fought for a court injunction to stop the festival — headlining acts never arrived (save for one, Melanie Safka) but thousands of fans did despite attempts by the state police and town to turn away attendees — the most common estimate seems to be that 30,000 people came, camped and essentially drugged away the music-less days at Powder Ridge – drug use was rampant and not the happy, peaceable marijuana high of Woodstock but a more angry and dangerous version with unprecedented numbers of bad trips (~ 50 people an hour) thanks to free-flowing tainted hallucinogens – lack of food, utilities and bathroom facilities added to the chaos.
A simple Internet search reveals no shortage of articles, accounts, photos and video of the Powder Ridge Festival. I am captivated by the photos by Leonard Freed, an esteemed photojournalist who spent most of his career documenting civil rights and social issues. Adding a wonderful layer to his stunning images and talent is that his wife, Brigitte, was his photo developer – an art itself. I love the practical and romantic dynamics of creative spouse partnerships – go team! (Click here for a lovely NYT article about the couple.) In keeping with the ski theme of this blog, I have selected photos featuring chairlifts – but please follow these links to see a wider presentation of Freed’s extraordinary portfolio and documentation of this event which now resides at The Davison Art Center at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, only a few miles away from the festival site.
As for Powder Ridge, the ski area shut down in 2007 but is currently in the process of rebuilding and resuming operations to become a year-round mountain park and resort.
If any readers attended this festival or have anecdotes, please write in as a comment to share!