Aldergrove Beach Rock Festival, B.C, Canada. May 17-19, 1969.

Aldergrove Beach Rock Festival, B.C, Canada. May 17-19, 1969.
Authored By John Nicholson

Although there were no big bands playing at this festival it was an important one in the history of North American festivals as it’s widely regarded as the first Maple Leaf big outdoor hippie fest.

Held just over the US-Canada border in British Columbia, not far from the Trans-Canada highway, it was located in a lovely rural setting at Aldergrove Lake Park - the beach being an artificial sandy area near a man-made lake. It’s a long way from the sea!

Aldergrove entrepreneur Brent Joliffe and a couple of DJs from Vancouver radio station CKLG73 promoted the festival, which turned out to be a financial disaster - of course it did - as many of the festival-goers had simply snuck into the park over the back fence instead of paying at the front gate. Rotters. It was only $5 for a ticket for 3 days of Aldergooving, though handbills advertising the gig did state it was free, so no surprise that some didn’t pay. 

Over 25,000 came and enjoyed wonderful sunny, warm weather, skinny dipping in the lake, smoking some dope, drinking beer, and enjoying what the local paper called “sleeping bag love-ins”!!! Groovy, baby. What a lovely modest way to describe it. Mind you, if you recall, it’s not the easiest way to get down and get with it, especially if you’ve only got a single sleeping bag for both of you to cram into.

OK I've got my beer, what are the rest of you drinking?

Of course, prior to the festival, which, let’s not forget, happened before Woodstock defined the scene, there were many fears that the town would be flooded with dope fiends, freaky deaks and anarchists. And, as we know now, this was ridiculous and hysterical. 

Attendees report it being a peaceful vibe in a beautiful location, tucked away in the woods. A stage was set up on a long sloping hillside.  

Jim Allan was one of the promoters. He said he was approached by radio station CKLG73 after they had made a tidy profit co-promoting a concert with Allan at UBC. Allan was the founder of the psychedelic club called The Retinal Circus. Brilliant name. Who amongst us doesn’t want a circus in our retinas? 

Later Jim Allan said the success of the festival was partly due to the cooperation of the Royal Candain Mounted Police.

“Those were the days when the fuzz were bad and all that sort of stuff. But we worked with the Burnaby detachment of the RCMP — they wanted to alert us that there was a motorcycle gang coming to the festival. So they worked closely with us about that. It really opened my eyes in terms of stereotypes.

“As a matter of fact when the festival was on, there was drinking and drugs and all this sort of stuff. The RCMP were there, and turned a blind eye to that, completely. But they said ‘If you don’t get the people to put their clothes back on, we’re going to shut you down.’ So we had to go around to all these topless and fully nude people and say ‘I’m sorry, but …’

“Hippies would respond, what’s the matter with you, tight-ass?’”

Ha ha. Is that great? Drugs, booze yeah that’s fine, but simple, honest human nudity, no, sir, not on our watch. And how nice to see someone referring to the cops as “the fuzz.” No-one uses that term any more, do they?  

Although the budget the organisers had was low, musically it was quite diverse a diverse bill, offering the best of local rock bands like The Seeds of Time (the band’s guitarist Lindsay Mitchell was later to co-found ’70s hit-makers Prism) and The Black Snake Blues Band had everyone getting on down with some heavy grooves. There was also the amazing Washington state blues guitarist and mentor to Jimi Hendrix, Guitar Shorty, who did back flips across the festival stage while he played guitar solos. In addition, B.C. folk singer Valdy wrote his big hit, “Play Me a Rock and Roll Song” about his experience of being booed off the Aldergrove festival stage for singing folk songs.

CBC News reported that about 30 people were arrested on narcotics-related charges and for intoxication which is very few for a 25,000+ crowd.

So many festivals ended in disasters of one sort or another, this one seems the exact opposite and very much what the scene was all about; groovy people being groovy with each other. 

Groovy people being groovy at Aldergroovy.



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