Saugatuck Pop Festival. Potawatomi Beach, Saugatuck, Michigan 1969

Saugatuck Pop Festival. Potawatomi Beach, Saugatuck, Michigan 1969
Authored By John Nicholson

This was the second Saugatuck Pop Festival and was held on July 4-5, 1969 in the same spot as the first the previous year, next to Potawatomi Beach, but because the ‘69 Festival was projected to be two or three times larger, the adjacent property owned by Pauline Nichols, was secured with last years Manifold property to accommodate the larger festival.

It was an all-star lineup of Michigan bands, most of whom had only been in existence for 18 - 24 months at most. Big Mama Thornton (didn’t show), Brownsville Station, Früt of the Loom, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Procol Harum, Rotary Connection, Savage Grace, SRC, The Amboy Dukes, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, The Frost, The Red, White and Blues Band, The Stooges, Bob Seger System.

Alice Cooper also played but wasn’t on the original schedule. Later, Alice remembered this gig. “We were too intense for L.A., so we said, the first place we play where we get a standing ovation, we're going to stay there. We played the Saugatuck Pop Festival with Iggy and the MC5, and I said, 'This is our audience right here!' Where L.A. didn't get it, Detroit totally got it." Procol Harum headlined the first day of music.

Arthur Brown closed the show and set his head on fire as per usual, climbing all over the scaffolding as he did so. His drummer was, of course, Carl Palmer who would be back touring the USA with ELP in the near future. A lot had gone to see Rotary Connection. They were an interesting psychedelic soul band who had backed Muddy Waters on his seminal Electric Mud album as well as The Howlin’ Wolf album of 1969 and featured Minnie ‘Loving You’ Riperton. By this time they’d had three charting albums, two of which had made the top 40 and they apparently got lots of airplay in and around Michigan. They eventually split up in 1971 but produced some really far-out stuff in their time.

The wonderful posters were designed by famous Michigan’s primo psychedelic graphics dude, Carl Lundgren. These were the days when Saugatuck was nationally known for the number of people it drew in the summer as a touristy sort of place. So adding in 15,000 of hairy rocker and hippies did make the place somewhat overcrowded.

Thousands camped in the woods and dunes around Goshorn Lake and Lake Michigan at the site of the Pop Festival. Police reported that over 1,000 cars were parked along Blue Star Highway leading to the festival. The entire town of Saugatuck was closed with State Police manning roadblocks at both Highway 31 entrances.

Cars were parked, and in many cases double-parked, on both sides of every street. The only cars allowed to move were police, fire and ambulance vehicles. Cars were parked from Oval Beach all the way into Saugatuck in every possible space. The town of Saugatuck was completely closed. Bunch o' freaks! as Arlo Guthrie might’ve put it.

After the Festival an injunction was filed by the Saugatuck township, against the owners of the properties; the Nichols and the Manifolds, stating that the festival violated land use laws and that the kids, “engaged in numerous objectionable, illegal and immoral acts.”

Of course, the real objectionable, illegal and immoral acts were happening in Vietnam, as many of the festival goers could’ve told you. So they nixed any future festivals and chalked it up as a win for The Man. Boo.

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