Festival Of Man And Earth - Denham Springs Louisiana 1970

Festival Of Man And Earth - Denham Springs Louisiana 1970
Authored By John Nicholson

Held between Saturday May 30, 1970 and Mon Jun 01, 1970 at Thunderbird Beach, Thunderbird Place, Denham Springs Louisiana 70726. Confusingly, it’s not actually a beach. Looking at it today, it looks like some sort of camping leisure area, so I assume that’s what it was back in 1970 when promoter Jim Brown put the gig together.

Obviously, what I like to call the Pleasant Valley Sunday types, were not too pleased with this, fearing the usual things: drugs, nudity and public grooving by freaks. Brown had gotten threatening phone calls from local residents and the city tried to shut it down by passing  anti-festival legislative measures. However, the wonderfully named Mr and Mrs Fucundus who owned and ran the site were not to be deterred from hiring it out to Brown. As ever in these days, there is always someone who emerges a hero for not being put off by all the straights and the Fucundus family were exactly that here. They were put under a lot of pressure by residents and legislature but held firm. It was their site and they’d rent it out to whomever they wanted, thank you very much.

The line-up of bands was Alice Cooper, Bob Seger, Brownsville Station, Chuck Berry, It's a Beautiful Day, John Lee Hooker, Mason Proffit, MC5, Potliquor, Ted Nugent & The Amboy Dukes, The Buckinghams, The Ides of March, & The Youngbloods. There are no accounts I could find about the music and who was well-received. I wonder what Chuck thought about this scene. Probably played, got a bag of cash and left. There were speeches on pollution and ecology too.

The festival was, as so many were, cursed by bad weather. During an electric thunderstorm on Friday, someone standing under a tree was struck by lightning and killed!

At its peak around 10,000 people were on the site, though 18,000 had been predicted - the rain keeping many away - and everything was relatively peaceful with even the 50 off-duty police officers who were working as an informal security team reporting how respectful and polite the kids were.  

Are you sure, lads?

Things changed on Sunday morning when a few narcs decided to raid people’s tents. This made the groovers rather cross and it was later reported 2000 surrounded the narcs and things got a tad ugly. The agents called in reinforcements armed with shotguns and dogs to disperse the crowd. 

By the end of Sunday over 70 had been arrested. To try and lower tempers, promoter Brown and other announcers, as well as guest speaker State Sen. William Guste of New Orleans, urged full cooperation with police and full respect of the drugs and narcotic laws. Both sales and open use of drugs dropped noticeably after the early Sunday morning incident, according to police officials.

Dr. Jeffery Gordon, one of several volunteer physicians present, described the crowd as very calm and quiet, and added that the entire operation was a lot like a Sunday picnic. Aw. Sending cops in in the first place just to bust a few kids for dope was madness. They made a lot of extra work for themselves. 

At least 131 persons were arrested, most were held for a time without bond on charges ranging from narcotics violations to "camping on private property and disturbing the peace."

A reporter for Newsweek Magazine, Sam Bingham, was released from jail Monday night after bond was set at $500. He had been arrested Sunday night and booked with “interfering with police.” And we know the police don't like being interfered with. 

An attorney for festival promoters, Ronald Causey, said Judge W. M. Dawkins of Louisiana's 21st judicial district court told him on Monday night that bonds would be set at $2,500 each for possession of marijuana and might run to $5,000 for marijuana possession coupled with other charges.

Causey said he and other attorneys were driving to the Livingston Parish jail on the Monday night to try to free their clients.

Meanwhile on the final day Jim Brown lifted the $15 ticket price and let people in free, declaring in true Woodstock-style that “we’re going to take a bath”

Brown blamed police pressure and adverse publicity surrounding the event for his financial problems, as well as for disturbances at the festival, and said legal action was planned.

"We're going to do everything we can to see that the people who caused the trouble get what they deserve," he said, understandably bitter. "I imagine that we personally won't be the only persons filing suit."

He said police, including motored squads, gathered outside the Thunderbird Beach festival site and rushed through the fence in groups, collaring several youths at a time and taking them to jail.

Mrs Fucundus, called the police men “marauders” and accused them of turning an otherwise peaceful gathering of more than 10,000 into “bedlam.” Her husband Dale said they hadn’t had any trouble from the kids at all.

A portable police compound was even set up just outside the beach.

This had the presumably desired effect of bumming out the whole vibe so people drifted away, leaving very few around for the last day. 

This was all a classic example of hostility from The Man towards festivals and the people who went to them. They were pissed off that Brown and the wonderful Fucundus family had effectively conspired to make it happen and so set about making life as difficult and unpleasant as possible. It was mean-spirited and bullying but once again shows just how scared by the hippies fest scene they were and how little they understood it.

Scroll To Top