I never got to the 1969 Music & Art Fair everybody still talks about. I was in school in beautiful, downtown Hoboken and we were all too serious to drive a couple of hours north to stand around in a muddy field in the rain for a long weekend to listen to rock-n-roll music. Heck, we could get that for free (or for the price of a couple of beers) right across the river.

I got a sort of second chance.

The Trout River pummeled Montgomery, a small town halfway up the mountain on the eastern border of my County. Our friends and neighbors there lost houses, clothing, furniture, food, cars … The lasting image I have is the same as Marathon, Florida, after Hurricane Wilma or New Orleans after Katrina.

Fortunately, no lives were lost.

Local water supplies were destroyed, flooded septic systems polluted lawns and wells, and the residents had to dig themselves out by hand.

One of my musician friends said, “Hey, why don’t we have a concert to raise a few bucks to help out.”

This is the story of why we had no phones at the show, but I have to tip a rary to get you there:

Floodstock took about 23 days to organize, probably a record for a concert with two stages, a world class headliner in April Wine, and 17 other exceptional entertainers. We applied for and received an Act 250 permit, AOT permissions, and created a plan to shut down the airport in the event of problems. There were no problems. And it didn’t rain even a single drop.

Franklin County Field Days donated the site that had housed the Grateful Dead two years before. We had a great fence but had to build new stages.

Floodstock was a family event, so a kids’ store set up a corral with toys, activities, and volunteers to keep the kids happy. We also had a splendid hospitality area for the handicapped and for folks who needed a place to sit down and relax in the shade, thanks to the Town Manager and his merry band.

More people have asked how we got nearly 700 custom tee shirts so quickly; here’s that story.

Natalie LaRocque-Bouchard designed the Floodstock logo and e-mailed it to me for the website, for posters, and for other publicity. A Northfield shop owner offered as many shirts as we wanted for the cause. The shirts were stored in bins in his converted mill building in Northfield; all we had to do was come down, count them, and truck them home. Two peeps volunteered. They drove to Montpelier Thursday afternoon to deliver the AOT contract and to pick up the shirts. They didn’t know about counting them, so they retaliated by picking an extra extra EXTRA large florescent orange shirt for me. Unfortunate, a traffic incident delayed them as they approached home with the load. Our printer finally received the shirts late Thursday evening and printed them Friday morning. We gave away shirts to almost 400 volunteers, community groups and band members, and sold the rest on Sunday.

Frank Barnes of 8084 and I co-chaired the effort.

Most of the back stage folks signed the orange shirt while I wore it all day Sunday.

The biggest concert I’ve ever presented left my brain toast, my feet mush, and I couldn’t stop smiling. In 78 hours the Field Days/Grateful Dead site went from a bare field to a dual-stage major concert site, to a bare field again. All with volunteer help. Everyone who helped out took home a host of wonderful images; in no particular order, here are some of mine.

The National Guard lashed 4 flatbed trailers together for the main stage, leveled them with blocks and jacks, then built an extension out of Field Days’ bleachers.

The Friday afternoon phone call from Grover: “We can power the sound or the lights, not both.” While we searched frantically for a 120 KVA generator (rarely available at the local home center) and tried redesigning the sound, the Swanton Village Electric team quietly found us enough juice.

A pediatrician lopped the ends of the staging with his chain saw.

We ran short of volunteers around 5 p.m., so a whole gang simply stayed over and worked a double shift.

April Wine’s Myles Goodwyn hit the first chord and the lights in the production trailer browned out. The lights danced with the beat for the rest of the show.

Tech guys slept in hammocks strung under the trailer-stage through some of the loudest sets.

Jesse Potts bragged to me that he had never sounded so good. Jesse, I was in the crowd. The tech guys for each stage had a little friendly competition going and everybody sounded great!

Rebuilding the Field Days fence Monday afternoon with Highgate Town officials and friends.

The April Wine setup on stage included a canvas enclosure to hide the drum set until their show started. I was backstage for the 8084 set, watching April Wine drummer Jerry Mercer in his private tent play beat-for-beat with 8084 drummer Scott Belisle.

Cell phones were not widespread in Vermont in 1997. There may have been a cell tower. Somewhere. We needed a phone line but NYNEX/Bell Atlantic was dragging its collective feet about installing a temporary phone line to the Field Days site (the wire was already there — all they had to do was flip a switch back in the office).

At 4:59 p.m. Friday, I was in the Town Clerk’s office, on the phone pleading with the NYNEX supervisor who had his hand on the switch.

At 5 p.m. Friday, NYNEX turns off its phone lines. Bang. Static. Dead air.

I sat down. I hung up the phone gently. And I had an epiphany.

100 years from now no one would remember we couldn’t make any calls.

All the bands played for free.

Vermont received about $7.5 million in Federal aid. That takes care of roads and bridges. It didn’t help the individual homeowners and renters who lost everything.

All Floodstock ticket revenues went to the Montgomery Flood Fund.

The Bands
April Wine

Blues for Breakfast
Cobalt Blue
Jesse Metcalf & Good Knight Moon
Jessie Potts
Joey the Clown
John Cassel and Friends including Will Patton
The Johnny Devil Band
Land of Yo Variety Show
Mark Twang
Mary Ellen Missett (Frannie the Clown)
The Nobby Reed Project
Nocturnal Emissions
No Prophets
Patrice & Kathi
South Bound

Yankee Pot Roast


One thought on “Floodstock

  1. To my limited reading comprehension, you have never posted a year reference to this esteemed event. If I missed it in its complexity, I apologize. Frankly, I never heard of “Floodstock”, but I was probably a wage-earning adult when this event is alleged to have occurred.

    In any event, I laud the Hippie generation for saving the Vermont community; and I laud the musical groups, also known as “bands”, for their involvement. That is what America is all about.

    — So, what the hell ever happened to “that ideal?

    — George

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