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Strawberry Fields (Canadian festival)

 

Strawberry Fields (Canadian festival)

The Strawberry Fields Festival was a rock music festival held at Mosport Park Raceway in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada, about 100 kilometers east of Toronto, between August 7 and the early morning hours of August 10, 1970. Although accounts vary, the audience has been estimated at between 75,000 and 100,000 people.[1] A three day ticket for the festival sold for $15.00.

Contents

  • Connection to Toronto Peace Festival 1
  • Selection of the venue and promotion of the Festival 2
  • Border troubles 3
  • The park 4
  • Performers 5
  • References 6

Connection to Toronto Peace Festival

John Brower along with John Lennon and Yoko Ono had originally planned to host the "Toronto Peace Festival" at Mosport Park in July 1970 but they ran into numerous roadblocks and their plans were dashed when their application for the necessary permits were denied. In de-classified documents released in 2007 it was revealed in an RCMP report dated Dec. 30, 1969 that the Canadian security service began spying on ex-Beatle John and Yoko after they announced their plans for the Peace Festival.[2]

Selection of the venue and promotion of the Festival

Without John and Yoko, Brower moved forward with plans to host a festival in Moncton, New Brunswick, named the "Strawberry Fields Festival". Again, local politicians intervened and revoked various permits so Brower shifted the location back to Mosport Park in Ontario only this time he thinly disguised the event as a championship motorcycle race featuring "some contemporary entertainment".[3] The festival was advertised in Canada as the “First Annual Strawberry Cup Trophy Race”. To avoid public and political scrutiny, the musical entertainment aspect of the event was downplayed in advertisements and the festival was not promoted heavily in Canada.[4]

When it was discovered that the primary focus of the event was not motor cycle racing but instead a rock music festival, the Attorney General of Ontario, Arthur Wishart, filed for an injunction to stop the festival from taking place citing health and public safety concerns. On August 6, with only hours to go before the opening act was scheduled to take the stage, Supreme Court Justice D. A. Keith refused to grant the injunction and the festival was allowed to proceed.[5]

Unlike in Canada, the "Strawberry Fields Festival" was promoted heavily in the U.S. as a three day rock music festival with the slogan, “Love, Sun and Sound”. As a result, a large percentage of the attendees were from the American north east. Others travelled from as far away as California and Florida. In the end, the sanctioning body for the racing series withdrew its drivers from the event so an actual race never occurred although an obligatory lap by a few motor cyclist did occur in order to comply with the local ordinance.[6]

Border troubles

Several thousand more young American music fans were turned back at the Canadian border, when they were unable to provide proof they had sufficient funds to look after themselves while visiting Canada or produce adequate identification. Forty US dollars were required to be shown to officials (at the Thousand Islands Bridge crossing checkpoint). If one could not show cash they were told they could not enter Canada. Cash was sometimes borrowed from person to person at the lineup. One person who was turned away at the Canadian border crossing at Prescott, Ontario, drowned while attempting to swim into Canada across the St. Lawrence River near Watertown, New York. Several arrests related to the attempted importation of narcotics and banned substances were made.[7]

The park

Mosport is a 500-acre (2.0 km2) auto racing venue. Strawberry Fields was the first of three major music festivals held at Mosport Park Raceway, between 1970 and 1980. The other two were Canada Jam held August 26, 1978 and the punk and new wave themed, Heatwave Festival held August 23, 1980.

Performers

Strawberry Festival acts included (not in order of appearance):

Led Zeppelin was booked to play the festival. The band's name appears on posters and flyers promoting the event however they failed to show. Leonard Cohen was also listed on the bill but did not appear. The festival concluded at 5:30 AM on Monday, August 10 with a performance by Woodstock alumni Sly & the Family Stone. Other performers who also appeared at the 1969 Woodstock Festival in Bethel, New York included Melanie, Ten Years After and Mountain. Chip Monck, who designed the stage lighting for Woodstock and became the impromptu emcee of that event had planned to emcee Strawberry Fields but the various changes in dates and venues pushed the festival into August and Mr. Monck was bound to honour a previous commitment to work the Rolling Stones European tour at that time.

References

Citations
  1. ^ Yorke, Ritchie (22 August 1970), "Brower Promotes Strawberry Field Pop Fest Into Winner", Billboard published by Nielsen Business Media, Inc.. (New York): 80, 82 
  2. ^ "RCMP spied on Lennon, Ono: declassified files". CBC News. July 23, 2007. 
  3. ^ Yorke, Ritchie (22 August 1970), "Brower Promotes Strawberry Field Pop Fest Into Winner", Billboard published by Nielsen Business Media, Inc.. (New York): 80, 82 
  4. ^ "LSD Sold Openly at Festival", The Toronto Star published by Torstar Media, Inc.. (Toronto), August 7, 1970: 1, 10 
  5. ^ "Court Injunction Refused", The Toronto Star published by Torstar Media, Inc.. (Toronto), August 7, 1970: 1, 10 
  6. ^ "LSD Sold Openly at Festival", The Toronto Star published by Torstar Media, Inc.. (Toronto), August 7, 1970: 1, 10 
  7. ^ "LSD Sold Openly at Festival", The Toronto Star published by Torstar Media, Inc.. (Toronto), August 7, 1970: 1, 10 
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