Dufferin County has its secrets . Not to the people who live here but to all the new residents that have moved here since 1986. Memories run deep and with the pasting of time new generations will create their own.
Let me tell you a story. Well not so much a story but about how my afternoon unfolded about 2 months ago.
I went out for a hike on the weekend and was listening to The Guess Who on my iPhone while I out on the trail. The temperature was perfect and the day seemed to slowly unfold. I parked at the Dufferin Hi-Land parking lot just south of Dufferin County Road 17. Opposite the car park, is a most interesting short section through amazing trees and lots of bush reveals an exposed section of the escarpment, the Trail winding its way between and across crevasses and other limestone formations. It really was awesome. The thing was that while I was checking out the caves I got turned around a bit and stumbled onto some old abandoned buildings.
Now, I had no idea what this place was so I took lots of photos hoping to show some friends what I had found. But while I was getting ready to find the trail again I noticed this wall with parts of the chipboard missing. Behind it was a time capsule of photos, posters, newspaper clipping and it was all from the late 60’s and early 70’s. HOW COOL was that! It was like taking a step back in time,a time before I was born.
A few days later, lots of sleepless nights, exchanged email with some bloggers online and even trips to the Dufferin County Museum I was able to put the whole thing together.
It’s hard to believe that 44 years ago! there was this amazing thing that was happening in north america….It was called the ‘counter culture‘ of the time.
Gatherings like the Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock (or our local equivalent – the ‘Freak Out Festival’ held at Rockhill Park near Orangeville (Ontario) over the Labour Day weekend of 1969 and 1970) brought together tens (or hundreds) of thousands of ‘hippies’ for weekend-long parties fuelled famously by ‘sex, drugs, and rock and roll’. It was a time of change – both in culture as well as in music. If you were a teenager in the late sixties and early seventies, you’ll remember the songs of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendix, The Doors, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Jefferson Airplane, Cream, Pink Floyd, The Grateful Dead, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Joe Cocker, and many, many more. Their music still resonates with those who were part of the ‘counter culture’ of the time.
So basically our local ‘Freak Out’ festival ran over labour day weekend in 1969 which was the first year, then in July 1970 as a ‘mini’ festival and again in July 1971. CHUM AM was the sponsor the first year ( I don’t know who sponsored it after that). During the 1969, 1970 and 71 festivals camping was located in a field and there were a few trees but not many. People basically set up tents where ever they wanted.
I the main stage was setup on the pond, but there were other ‘smaller’ stages in other areas; the playtimes were staggered throughout the day/evening. The music was the magical part of the event. Friends and relationships were born, it was a time of change….I would have loved to be part of that movement but that time is long gone.
There was a hill where you could sit/lie and watch/listen to the bands across the lake. There was a sort of covered picnic area at the top of the hill where you could seek shade and have something to eat. They even had people selling food and crafts in the park.
The big bands of the 1969 weekend were The Guess Who and Lighthouse. The 1970 festival was obviously a much smaller event but just as enjoyable I’ve been told. The police, locals and even township tried to shut it down over the 11 years but the music just keep playing, that was until the 80’s came along.
Back in the 1950’s there was a trail park up further in the park which might explain why there are trailers there today.
So why did the festivals come to an end? The laws where different back then so I guess it was like the wild west. The the ‘locals’ must have complaining about the noise and the mess after the 69 festival and that could be why CHUM stopped sponsoring. Besides, Woodstock had come and gone and the idea of weekend long festivals had sort of had their time. I imagine the whole idea of running something that big, complicated and expensive without major sponsorship (and money) would have been too much for whoever took over and so they just stopped.
But Elwood (the owner of Rock Hill Park) had other plans. As history has it, Willie Nelson in 1980 played to 80,000 people on June 27. It took Willy Nelson a bit to get there but he arrived at Rock Hill Park for the concert in a helicopter sent by Tommy Hunter because all the other helicopters were fighting fires.
After that weekend ROCK HILL PARK was destined to be shutdown for good. But the memories will live on and thanks to facebook there is even a Rock Hill Page.
Mulmur Township and the locals had enough. So Country and Western music stopped, not be echoing through the hills from Mulmur’s Rock Hill Park, August 3 and 4, due to a court injunction prohibiting overnight musical festivals in the township. Wednesday, July 17, 1985.
Here is a post I found on the net (I can’t remember the site…sorry)
I was 16 in the summer of ’69. A bunch of us were working the tobacco fields around Essa township near Angus, Ontario. There were two outdoor concerts coming up one called The Freak Out near Shelburne Ontario and another called this Woodstock Music and Arts Festival in upper New York state. I remember that I loved the line-up of that Woodstock thing but choose The Freak Out because it was only 3o miles away. At the time it was a sound choice and most of my friends choose the same but 3 of my buds headed south. (they were gone for almost a week) I must say I rocked and partied pretty hard at the Freak Out but as Woodstock ’69 history continues to grow and Freak Out fades in the fog of time my choice not to head south was the wrong choice. Who knew 50,000 @ Freak Out vs 500,000 @ Woodstock. Did happen to attend Woodstock ’99 but that was a different time in a different place that does not compare with the original.
Summer of 1969 and Motherlode (out of London, Ontario) reached top forty charts with this great song. The band also performed at The Freak Out at Rock Hill Park near Orangeville, Ontario along with some twenty other bands including The Guess Who and Five Man Electrical Band that same year. Close your eyes and it doesn’t seem that long ago….
Here are some photos that