July 30: Powder Ridge: The Epic Rock Concert That Never Was


On this day in 1970, a sea of nearly 30,000 concertgoers circumvented police roadblocks and hiked up Beseck Mountain in Middlefield, Connecticut with high hopes of attending a rock concert — and party — for the ages.  In an attempt to ride the momentum of the wildly popular rock n’ roll megaconcert at Woodstock in 1969, the owners of the Powder Ridge ski area in Middlefield organized a multi-day festival, headlined by some of the biggest rock stars and singer-songwriters of the day.  Scheduled acts included the Allman Brothers, Van Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jethro Tull, James Taylor, Chuck Berry, Fleetwood Mac, Grand Funk Railroad, and more.

However, local residents around Powder Ridge, alarmed at the prospect of Woodstock-style chaos, crowds, and property destruction coming to their neighborhood, were able to secure a legal injunction from the local Planning and Zoning committee that prohibited the concert from taking place.  Still, nearly half of the expected concertgoers showed up the day before the festival was scheduled to begin anyway, either ignorant of the show’s cancellation or in spite of it, and camped out on the slopes of Powder Ridge for days.  Local news reports described wild scenes of hard partying, including rampant drug use and naked swimming in a polluted pond.  Triage centers were set up by local first responders and volunteer doctors to handle the dozens of cases of severe drug overdoses that occurred during the course of the mass encampment.

The court-ordered injunction remained firm, however, and none of the headliner acts ever showed up at the ski resort.  After the crowds finally started to dissipate the following weekend, local volunteers — including a fair number of concertgoers — remained to help clean up the trash-strewn hillsides of Powder Ridge.  It was arguably the greatest rock concert that never was, on this day in Connecticut history.

Further Reading

Powder Ridge Rock Festival: Most Famous Concert That Never Happened?Hartford Courant

Kelly Ann Gore-Oleksiw, “Powder Ridge Rock Festival remembered with photo exhibit in Massachusetts,Middletown Press

Photo Gallery: “Powder Ridge – The Greatest Rock Concert that Never Happened,” Record Journal