I wasn’t much interested in the adult perspective at the time. I had protested against the Vietnam War, and my draft time was rapidly approaching. If you were a male teenager in the 1960s, your future was on display nightly in national news reports on television, where body counts were offered like baseball’s daily box scores. Unless the war miraculously ended, it was only a matter of time before you went. If I could be sent off to kill people as soon as I graduated from high school, couldn’t I be allowed the privilege of enjoying myself first? I figured the Churubusco Live-In would at least give me that.
Still, there was that rational adult viewpoint. The feeling voiced most often was that all those hippies will be drug-crazed, and we don’t want them here. And who would pay for everything? Extra police, medical facilities, food—the logistics seemed impossible even if someone did pay for them. Why did it seem impossible? It was fully expected that upwards of 200,000 fans would attend the Live-In, drawing from Montreal, Boston, New York City, and the other cities of New York State.
For three days of rock music, it wasn’t just Churubusco that would be bursting at the seams. A crowd of 200,000 would more than triple the entire county population virtually overnight. Battle lines were drawn, and the ensuing struggle lasted for weeks over whether or not the concert would be held. While the promoters and local authorities went back and forth, ticket sales continued and more bands were signed.
Thrown into the mix was a remarkable ordinance concocted by J. Byron O’Connell and Clinton town officials. When the ordinance was passed, it gained widespread attention for the unusual clauses it contained and the American liberties it surrendered, all in the name of stopping the concert.
Among the dozens of events banned were auto races, baseball games, carnivals, clambakes, concerts, exhibitions of paintings, horse shows, horseless carriages (you read it right!), kinetoscopes, menageries, merry-go-rounds, poultry shows, and rodeos. Other clauses warned that no one “shall cry out or make loud noises in any public street, highway, or place,” and “There shall be no musical noise between 10 pm and 9 am which shall in any way interfere with the peace and tranquility of the community.” To foil concert organizers, the town had moved towards becoming a totalitarian state, at least temporarily.
It was a wild time. The concert dominated the news media in the region, and developments were followed by youth across the nation. If this was the second coming of Woodstock, nobody wanted to miss it, even those on the West Coast.
In the end, the adult viewpoint won, and the concert was canceled (along with subsequent Churubusco concerts). It may have been the right thing to do, but who knows? For three days of love, peace, and music (described by others as sex, drugs, and rock and roll), and a huge mess to clean up afterward, Churubusco might have become a must-see site for millions of baby boomers. Those tourist dollars sure would come in handy today.
Photo: 1970 Ad from Boston After Dark (thanks to Earle Boudreau, who shared the image).