Rockfest 70 News Archive. Background Picture of Powder Ridge Rock Festival, Middlefield, CT 1970

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New York Times: August 3, 1970

DRUG PERIL EASES AT POWDER RIDGE

THOUSANDS LEAVING SITE OF BANNED ROCK FESTIVAL

Special To The New York Times

MIDDLEFIELD, Conn., Sunday August 2 – A physician serving as medical director of the aborted rock music festival near here said early this morning that the drug situation that he had described yesterday as approaching crisis stage was no longer so serious.

The physician, Dr. William Abruzzi, declared early today that "there was no drug crisis tonight." He said numbers of young persons being treated for "bad acid trips" at the temporary medical facility had dropped from 50 an hour Friday evening and Saturday to a total of 20 to 30 over four hours late last night and early today.

He said the drop in the number of bad trips was due to the appearance of several local rock bands on the main stage here. He said this had shifted the preoccupation of the young people from drugs to music.

Earlier Dr. Abruzzi had said that frustration and boredom which had developed among the young people camping on the grassy slopes when a court order prevented the appearance of all but a few rock band were responsible for the heavy use of drugs.

The youths "had nothing else to do," he said.

Worse Than Woodstock

There were more "bad trips" among the young people at Powder Ridge, Dr. Abruzzi said, than he encountered among the hundreds of thousands at the Woodstock festival last August in Bethel, New York. Dr. Abruzzi has served as medical director at that at other festivals.

"Woodstock was a pale pot scene," he said. "This is a heavy hallucinogens scene."

Late last night only about 12,000 young people remained. Most of them sat on the main slope during a light rain, waiting for a local rock group called Sawn to begin playing

Earlier, a 20-year-old Rita Katzman of Dumont, N.J. was hospitalized after a traffic accident on Route 147 about two miles from here during which she was knocked from the roof of one car and fell beneath the wheels of another. She was in critical condition late tonight at Yale-New Haven Hospital.

Earlier in the day bedraggled and weary young men and women were leaving the area, whose portable toilets were overflowing and whose lakes had been declared polluted and unfit for swimming.

"It's getting a bit too grubby back there," said Dan O'Keefe, 18 years old from Johnston, R.I., as he trudged away from Powder Ridge. "You can't get clean, the dope is bad. I can't hack it."

At least 30 youths have been arrested on narcotics charges outside the area gates.

However, along the main road to Powder Ridge and inside the garbage-laden grounds, drug sellers were still openly peddling their wares, including LSD, mescaline, and other powerful hallucinogens.

Observers witnessed youths apparently on "bad trips," screaming and shaking among the tents and blanket shelters that had sprung up during the last week.

One young man, hitchhiking home to East Haven, about 20 miles away, said he had been unable to sleep last night because a girl on drugs was shrieking at the first aid station.

Dr. Abruzzi, the college physician at the State University at New Paltz, N.Y., said the medical station had handled as many as 4,500 patients with a variety of problems, most of them not serious.

The injunction that halted the festival frightened away many of the physicians who have planned to assist him, he said.

Herman Zemel, one of the owners of Powder Ridge, walked along this morning waning youths "there's lots of bad stuff going around. Smoke marijuana if you have to use something. But don't buy the stuff."

Mr. Zemel's attorney, Jacob Belford, was stricken with what was termed "a mild heart attack" at the area today. He was taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital, where he was listed in good condition.

The owners of Powder Ridge are scheduled Monday to answer contempt if court charges apparently brought because the youths refused to leave the area after the music was barred.

There was little to do at Powder Ridge today except loll in the humid heat or leave. Long lines of youths, including many shirtless men and women, waited patiently at half a dozen water taps to fill canteens and bottles. An improvised kitchen continued to serve a free vegetarian stew.

Some of those shambling out of the ski resort said they were disappointed because they found Powder Ridge so different than Woodstock.

The most obvious differences were music and size. Woodstock featured dozens of the nation's top rock groups, and the stage provided a focus for the attention of the crowd, which was estimated at from 300,000 to 500,000.

Whatever the number at Bethel, it was crowded and the people were pressed close together on blankets covering hundreds of acres. At Powder Ridge, clusters of youngsters were self-contained a discreet few feet apart like bathers on an uncrowded beach.

What struck observers that had been both places, however, was not the visible differences but the contrasting mood or spirit of the two festivals. The gentle euphoria – the grins, the small smiles and exchanged "V" signals – of people milling though muddy fields of Bethel seemed to be missing at Powder Ridge.

Instead, last night and this morning, the major pastime here was shuffling walks along paved roads by grim-faced young men and women who looked remarkably similar to old people moving slowly along the boardwalks of the Rockaways or Atlantic City.


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