Set the ‘Way Back’ time machine for Evansville 1972. Back then, we shopped at Levinson’s, Folz City Records, Kuester’s, Art’s Market, Weinbach Pharmacy and waited for the Merry Mobile to grab an ice cream treat. I was killing time and waiting for the weekend to hang out at Washington Square Mall on Friday & Saturday nights (mostly because that’s where the chicks were:). Maybe grab a drink at the Orange Julius stand if my available ‘cash on hand’ allowed. It usually did, as I had big money for such things from my part time job at Zesto. $1.65 an hour as I recall.
But in the summer of 72, something BIG was in the works locally that was definitely NOT business as usual. The Erie Canal Soda Pop Festival aka Bull Island Rock Festival was hustling to find yet another site for the venue when the arrangements booked at Chandler Raceway fell through. Bands & artists had already been booked. Not just any bands either, Black Sabbath, Fleetwood Mac, The Doors, Bob Seger, The Eagles, Cheech n Chong to name a few HOLY MOLY! (see the poster bill pic).
But my fate was sealed, at the age of 15 and no car, travel logistics made it impossible for me to attend. I still regret not being there. So close but so far away.
I have always been been obsessed with Woodstock & Bull Island. On Friday, a friend sent me notification of a 50 year commemorative Bull Island get together event on the following day. (Thank you Karen) The event was held at American Legion in Mt Vernon, IN and put together by The Posey County Historical Society. It was awesome! There were several Speakers who recalled memories & told stories of the epic concert event.
“Cash was knee deep in the trailer of the promotions manager” said a retired state trooper that worked the event. One of the few ‘uniformed’ law men that worked the event. He said very few arrests were made because of the nearly impossible evacuation time & effort required.
With the interstate choked up by thousands of parked cars, bands were flown in on a helicopter since limos could not get through or make passage. Some of the biggest acts refused to perform since their contracted compensation was based on an estimated crowd size of 65,000. In fact, attendance swelled to 3 or 4 times the estimated number.
The fact that only 3 deaths occurred in the 3 day period in a crowd of 300,000 seems pretty good to me! Fun fact: some 200 vehicles were towed off the highway & concert site after the event. So much fun to listen to these folks that were actually there! Author Dan Davis was there with his book The Bull Island Rock Festival. I bought my copy and got it signed too. I can’t wait to read it.
This concert would have been historic where ever it might have been, the east coast, the west coast, BUT IT WAS RIGHT HERE IN THE TRI-STATE! WOW. Thank you to The Posey County Historical Society for this ultra cool look back at this ‘once in a lifetime’ epic concert event.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON BULL ISLAND ROCK FESTIVAL
I have copied & pasted the information below from a post on The Posey County Historical Society facebook page.
50 years ago, the disastrous Bull Island Festival was held in Posey County. Officially named the Erie Canal Soda Pop Festival, concert promoters put on a rock show in the spirit of Woodstock, but they were unprepared for the overrun of more than 200,000 people. The rain-drenched event occurred near Griffin, Indiana and ended in two deaths.
The promoters planned to hold the festival on the grounds of a racetrack in Chandler, Indiana in Warrick County but officials prohibited the use of the initial site, forcing promoters to a last minute move to Bull Island, a piece of land jutting out into the Wabash River. Expected crowds of 55,000 swelled to 200,000 to 300,000. Law enforcement (only 3 deputy sheriffs were on scene), access (cars were parked for 4 miles along the interstate as drivers and passengers then hiked in), sanitation, food and water were completely inadequate. Many of the promised performers did not show. A torrential rainstorm furthered the chaos. The event ended with 2 deaths, overturned and robbed food trucks, the stage being burned, mounds of debris and massive legal problems for the 2 promoters.
Copy Source: Posey County Historical Society Facebook post:
More Bull Island info:
Photos from USI Archives Sonny Brown Collection. See more at: