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Iowa History Daily: July 31 - Wadena Rock Festival 1970

Iowa History Daily: On July 31, 1970, over 50,000 people swarmed to Wadena in Fayette County to kick-off the Wadena Rock Festival. Known as “Iowa’s Woodstock,” the festival featured the Everly Brothers, REO Speedwagon, Little Richard, and many other famous acts on a farm two miles west of the 240 person Iowa small town.

Governor Robert Ray sought to temper the enthusiasm of the hordes of hippies as 30 musical acts performed over the course of the three-day festival. Sound Storm Enterprises of Chicago conceived of the event, and initially sought to hold the festival in Galena, Illinois. However, after local authorities in Galena prevented the event, Wadena ended up hosting the event.

The Des Moines Register reported on the event and attendees, writing: “Like the freaky clothes, the long hair, and the drugs, the music separates and protects them from all the ‘straight world.’” Despite the Governor’s appearance on opening day and the state’s attorney general seeking a legal challenge to the festival, the drums boomed and crowds cheered in Fayette County in late July of 1970.

The 218-acre site rocked and rolled for three days as many notable acts played to a crowd. Locals and attendees alike remember the events, but few formal accounts or documentary footage encapsulate a crazy few days in northeastern Iowa. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryCalendar


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