Sky River Rock Festival
Rainier Hereford Ranch
August 30, 31, and September 1, 1969
When I began blogging about 1969's first rock festival (Aquarian Family Festival) I thought I had a complete list for the rest of 1969. Not true and the Sky River Rock Festival is among those I've had to add. There are likely more and if so, I'll catch up later.
Sky River Rock Festival
I found nearly all the information about the Sky River Rock Festival from the HistoryLink.org site.
Northern Exposure Piano Fling
Fans of the TV series Norther Exposure will remember the episode with the piano fling.
The idea for the first Sky River festival (1968) emanated from the Great Piano Drop of April 28, 1968, on musician Larry Van Over’s farm in Duvall, where a helicopter dropped an upright piano into a field just so everyone could hear what it would sound like. Organizers thought if they could get people out to a rural spot to watch a piano fly, then they'd come out to a festival, too.
That first festival was in 1968 with two more each of the following years. In an important way, Sky River 1968 preceded the much more famous Woodstock Music and Art Fair. One of the things that made Woodstock unique was that it was in an undeveloped open rural area that people camped in and around. Such was the 1968 Sky River. The first site was Betty Nelson's 40-acre organic raspberry farm on the banks of the Skykomish River, just outside Sultan, Washington. John Chambless, philosophy professor at the University of Washington, and one of organizers later said, "I don’t think at the time anybody dreamed it would become a three-day festival over the Labor Day weekend." The Dead played at the '68 festival and, not surprisingly, recorded their performance.
Organizers decided to do another. This time in Tenino which is south of Olympia. A small town, the 2013 population was just over 1,700. Like the "relationship" between Wallkill, NY and Woodstock Ventures, local pressure from police, the Catholic Archdiocese, and others against the event grew. Again an organizer, Chris Chambless had to scramble to find a site. He thought Tenino would be OK. The Tenino Chamber of Commerce and several adjacent property owners obtained an injunction blocking a Thurston County permit, but the judge required them to post a $25,000 bond against the festival's anticipated losses. The plantiffs couldn't, and at the last possible second the festival was cleared for takeoff.
An estimated 25,000 people attended over three days, but the festival still lost money. There were many complaints and letters written to Washington State Governor Dan Evans to express their displeasure: Bumbershoot started and continues to the present.Although organizers held another Sky River in 1970, it was the last. Having said that, in 1971
Addendum from Cliff Merganz who posted on Facebook: I remember reading about the 1968 Festival in one of the first issues of Rolling Stone coming back from a visit to Manny's and Terminal Music on 48th Street in "the City". A good story and a few pictures and the first time I read Rolling Stone. I believe John Lennon was on the cover in his "How I Won the War" uniform. There is a CD floating around of the Flying Burrito Brothers playing at the 68' Festival. My ex-wife's family had property in the area and said it was almost impossible to get there due to all the "Hippies" but also added there was no trouble and they were all nice and polite.