The Rock Acres Peace Festival: hippies invade Queensborough

Rock Acres Peace Festival, Queensborough, Ont., 1971

Thanks to the marvellous Facebook page Vintage Belleville, Trenton & Quinte Region, I have access to this great photo of Queensborough’s one and only (to date, anyway) rock festival: the Rock Acres Peace Festival, held at the Quinlan farm on Quinlan Road just west of the village from Aug. 6 to 8, 1971. This photo came from Dennis Weir, and the comment he posted with it was: “My wife actually took the picture and we didn’t meet until a year later.” (Photo from Vintage Belleville, Trenton & Quinte Region)

It is quite within the realm of possibility that nothing so big as the Rock Acres Peace Festival has ever happened, or ever will happen again, to little Queensborough, Ont. Our very own rock festival started 42 years ago today, on Aug. 6, 1971.

Do you remember the Rock Acres Peace Festival? Did you attend it, or (like me) experience it by living nearby? I would love to hear from you! Please post your comments and share your memories, and perhaps we can build up a bit of an archive about this rather amazing (and now half-forgotten) mid-century event in Queensborough’s history.

And if this is all new to you, well: read on. I have details.

Rock Acres Peace Festival site in 2012

The bucolic site on what it now known as Quinlan Road where thousands of young people once, for one brief moment in August 1971, came and listened to music and did whatever else they felt like doing, at the Rock Acres Peace Festival.

Let’s begin with a note about the name, “Rock Acres Peace Festival.” I happen to think it was rather inspired. It got the word “rock” unsubtly in there, but not to describe the festival itself; the festival was apparently one of “peace.” Meanwhile, given the terrain of the Queensborough area – right on the edge of the Canadian Shield – “Rock Acres” is a pretty apt description for the Quinlan farm where the festival was held. I imagine it was one of the two Quinlan sons who organized the event – Leon, then 28, and James Jr., 24 – who had the brainwave about the name. And to this day I don’t have a clue what their parents, farmers James and Margaret Quinlan, thought about this whole project their sons were putting together. I don’t suppose there’s a chance James and Margaret are still alive, given that (according to the Elzevir Township history book Times to Remember in Elzevir Township) they marked their 40th wedding anniversary the same month as the rock festival was held. But it would be so interesting to talk to them – or Leon or James Jr. – about it. Leon or James Jr., if you’re out there…

Anyway. Perhaps first I’ll share my own memories of the rock festival, which you must understand come from someone who was only 11 years old at the time – and the time in question was quite some time ago.

I remember discussing the festival that was to take place at the Quinlan farm just west of Queensborough – and across the township line, so it was in Madoc Township rather than Elzevir Township, where Queensborough is – with classmates at Madoc Township Public School. Since school let out at the end of June, it must have been common knowledge that the August festival was coming at least a couple of months before it happened.

I remember my father, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick (minister of the Queensborough-Eldorado pastoral charge of the United Church of Canada), working together with ministers from other local churches to have a helpful Christian presence on the festival grounds when all those kids arrived.

I remember my dad recounting having seen (or maybe having spoken to someone who had seen) a poster for the festival that had the words JOHN LENNON in huge letters, and above that the words “HOPING FOR” in very tiny letters. Hope sprang eternal! (John Lennon did not, by the way, show up.)

I remember our peaceful little village being absolutely thronged with young people, who gravitated to the two general stores for food and soft drinks, and to the nearby swimming hole at the dam on the Black River, for cooling off. I remember one of them having a rather alarmingly large pet snake curled around his arm.

And I think I maybe remember being kept at home at the Manse a bit more than usual. In general in my Queensborough childhood we kids in summer wandered whenever and wherever we wanted; those were simpler times. But I suspect we were quietly kept close to home that rock-festival weekend, for fear we might come into contact with behaviour we perhaps should not have been exposed to. (Which might not have been a bad idea. Not long ago my Queensborough friend Elaine, reminiscing about the rock festival, shared the fact that at the swimming hole at the dam – which is at her family’s property – there was quite a bit of public fornicating going on.)

But whatever: it was all so very exciting! Queensborough found itself in the news, big-time, thanks to the rock festival and the attendant issues and controversies it stirred up.

My father preached a sermon in advance of the festival suggesting that we not condemn these kids (the festival attendees) before we’d even had a chance to meet them, and that we reach out to them and show them Christian kindness and goodness. That didn’t sit well with everyone; there were quite a few people in the area who were more than ready to condemn the event, and its participants, sight unseen. I recall my dad being interviewed about his somewhat controversial stand by one of the big Toronto newspapers (whether it was the Star or the Globe and Mail or the Telegram I’m not sure, and I’ve so far failed to find the article that was subsequently published), and it was quite something to see him featured in the reporter’s news story. (This of course being long before I got into the newspaper business and got more used to such things.)

As for putting into practice that Christian kindness, I recently had a very pleasant chat with Don McEwen of the Eldorado area, who was, with my dad, a member of the local ministerial association that had worked on having a presence at the festival. (A tent, maybe? I’m not sure.) Don and my dad may well have been the most present on site of the local ministers, and without going into detail, Don suggested that it was quite something to behold. Apparently the words “This is Sodom and Gomorrah” escaped my father’s lips. But there those young ministers were, on the ground and trying to do the right thing, and God bless them (as I am sure S/He did) for it.

The last memory I have of the rock festival is that it ended before it was supposed to, with a police bust-up. Some motorcycle-gang members showed up and things got ugly, at which point the Ontario Provincial Police moved in and that was the end of that.

And Queensborough’s day in the sun (at least the sun that shone on rock festivals in that brief shining moment between Woodstock in August 1969 and when mass gatherings at outdoor music festivals kind of trickled out a few years later) was over.

So those are my memories of the Rock Acres Peace Festival. Now let’s see what we can find out there in the wilds of the internet!

Okay, here is a contemporary (Aug. 11, 1971) report (of sorts) in the Renfrew Mercury-Advance (now the Renfrew Mercury, a Metroland paper):

Column in the Renfrew Mercury-Advance on the Rock Acres Peace Festival in Queensborough, Ont.

How charming that a little local newspaper a hundred miles northeast of Queensborough off in the Ottawa Valley considered our rock festival newsworthy! The columnist is Bruce Paton – who, I think, later became a photojournalist and photojournalism instructor. But in August 1971 he was very young, and (no disrespect intended, Bruce) writing some pretty awful small-town-newspaper prose. The column, in fact, makes no sense at all (judge for yourself by reading the full thing here), but we have to remember that it was 1971, and free-form everything, including writing, was all the rage.

Next: a Canadian Press report published in – of all places! – the Montreal Gazette, where Raymond and I now work. It tells of the rather disastrous and abrupt end of the festival, and you can see the full thing for yourself here:

Queensborough rock festival in The Gazette

And here is a totally wonderful period piece that the internet turned up, the first page of the typewritten minutes of the first meeting of Hastings County council after the festival (the biggest thing to hit sleepy Hastings County for quite some time, back in 1971) had come and gone. There is mention of the rock festival – and a bus excursion!

Hastings County Council minutes, September 1971, including mention of the Rock Acres Peace Festival, Queensborough

I also discovered some small bits of information about the bands that played at the festival. For whatever reason, the details of the musical entertainment do not seem to loom large in anyone’s accounts or memories – including mine. The Manse in downtown Queensborough is only a mile and a half or so from Quinlan Road and the scene of the action, but it might as well have been a light year. I had no idea who might actually be performing at our rock festival. But multiple sources – here is one – tell us that the Stampeders were there; you remember the Stampeders, right? (Sweet City Woman, people.) That posting on a Stampeders-concert-history site also lists other bands (Lighthouse, most notably) that might or might not (you can’t tell from the entry) have been there at Rock Acres. And one source – in a forum for musicians, on the topic of “Your First Show” ; go here, and scroll down to the entry by “snowdragon” – intriguingly suggests that Steppenwolf was there too, though I’m not sure I entirely believe it. Could snowdragon have got Steppenwolf (which would have been monstrously famous at the time, thanks to Magic Carpet Ride and Born to be Wild) mixed up with the somewhat-less-huge Stampeders?

Okay, that’s the sum total of what I know, or can find out, about the music at our rock festival. Now here’s one last quirky thing before I get to what is probably the definitive (for now – until you people share your knowledge and memories) accounting of the Rock Acres Peace Festival. Believe it it not, the obscure rock festival on the outskirts of Queensborough is cited in a 1987 article in the McGill (University) Law Journal, headlined “From Delegatus to the Duty to Make Law.” (Boy, that sounds like a real page-turner. Read it here!) I’m afraid life is too short for me to actually absorb the article (which looks to be brutally dull) and find out what it’s about, but I can tell you that our rock festival and the legal case it entailed (Madoc v. Quinlan) is cited on Page 62.

All right, on to some actual rock-festival reportage!

At one point during my research the internet coughed up this text…

Rock Acres Peace Festival chapter in Way Back When …

…which I immediately recognized as pages from the excellent history of Madoc Village and Madoc Township called Way Back When…, a book written as a summer-job project by two of my contemporaries at Centre Hastings Secondary School in Madoc, Ardith McKinnon and Garnet Pigden. The book, published in 1975 and an invaluable resource for local history, is long out of print and desperately hard to find. (Copies start at $60 on used-book site, and go up to $100. So you can imagine why I almost went into hysterics of joy when I found a copy for a dollar a few months ago at a Madoc yard sale.)

Way Back When… has a lengthy report on the festival – 11 pages’ worth. It really seems like Ardith and Garnet did their homework. There is so much interesting detail! Obviously there’s way too much text for me to reproduce it all here, but let me give you some highlights in point form:

  • The municipal authorities learned by accident – literally – of the plan by the Quinlan boys to hold the festival. In February 1971 posters and tickets for the event were found by the OPP in a car Leon Quinlan had been driving that was involved in a minor crash.
  • Once the secret was out, the Quinlans reported that they had been advertising the festival across North America since September 1970. “They said that they were prepared to spend $3,600.00 to hire thirty off-duty police to patrol the farm in three shifts daily…They were supposed to have planned four tenting areas, a service area for police, and for medical facilities, plus two sound stages, water and sanitary facilities,” Way Back When… says.
  • Madoc Township council immediately started looking into what it could do to put the kibosh on the Quinlans’ plans, at the behest of the populace: “Angry and terrified township residents began besieging the council members to try and stop the event.”
  • The township and county councils and the medical officer of health subsequently passed various bylaws and established regulations setting out strict rules for extra policing, insurance, sanitation, etc. They were doubtless aimed at making it impossible for the Quinlans to comply, and sure enough, they did not meet the various deadlines and whatnot. The township then tried to get an injunction to ban the festival – and won its case.
  • The Quinlans promptly rescheduled the festival from its original dates of July 3, 4 and 5 to Aug. 6, 7 and 8, a Friday, Saturday and Sunday. They said “that the festival would go on ‘come Hell or high water,’ in spite of the injunction.” And they reported that they’d sold 5,000 advance tickets at $10 a pop.
  • The council tried for a new injunction to ban the rescheduled event. The hearing was held in Toronto. The township lost. It sued the Quinlans “for violation of its Land Use By-law.” And it tried for yet another injunction. The hearing was July 30. The township lost again. At this point, it seems everybody resigned themselves to the fact that this sucker was actually going to happen.
  • Harts-Riggs Women's Institute

    The former schoolhouse on Harts Road (now, as at the time of the rock festival, the home of the Harts-Riggs Women’s Institute), where the OPP set up an emergency command post to deal with whatever might arise from the festival.

    “The Emergency Health Services Division of the Ontario Hospital Service Commission set up a field hospital on the site. It had an operating room with two tables equipped to handle major surgery,” Way Back When… reports. The St. John Ambulance, the Addiction Research Foundation, and the Madoc Fire Department prepared to deploy people. The OPP “set up a command post at the Hart’s-Riggs’ Women’s Institute Hall” (about four miles away from the farm, I’d guess). The Quinlans apparently had no telephone(!), so “the Bell Telephone Co. ran a line down the mile-long dirt road to install two pay telephones.”

  • One of the most colourful parts of the book’s reportage is about the outdoor toilets: “The impressive ‘holers’ were thirty feet long and eight feet wide, divided down the middle thus making two sides each thirty feet long. Each side was sectioned into compartments with each section having four circular, roughly hewn holes. The most magnificent of these mammoth ‘outhouses’ was a ‘forty-holer’ complete with all the modern styling such as a natural barn-board look in unisex compartments. Users could sit in these stylish structures fighting the termites and slivers, as they did their daily duty.”

Rock Acres Peace Festival, Queensborough, 1971

“Males with long hair…most needing a wash”: the masses ready for peace, love and music in a photo (which I believe is from the Kingston Whig-Standard originally) that appears with the entry about the Rock Acres Peace Festival in the definitive history of Elzevir Township, Times to Remember in Elzevir Township. (I should maybe note for the record, though, that the book gives incorrect dates for the festival, saying it was Aug. 9-11, 1971. In fact it was Aug. 6-8.)

  • And the throngs started arriving, “many in their bare feet, males with long hair, many with beards, and most needing a wash.” As seemed to happen at most rock festivals of the era, a lot of people got in without a ticket by climbing over fences. The kids slept in tents or the open air.
  • The Children of God and the robed Hare Krishnas showed up to add to the festivities. “Drug peddlers were in full operation,” the book reports.
  • The magnificent outhouses didn’t hold up too well. “By the third day of the festival, the backs were off most of the privies, openly exposing the thrones. Seeking a little more privacy…most festival-goers took to the bush.”
  • There was music! The bands started playing on Friday, Aug. 6, and continued till 1:30 a.m. They played again the afternoon and evening of Saturday the 7th. “It was said that at times the loud rock music could be heard almost a mile away” from the Quinlan farm. (My brother John remembers hearing the music from the Manse, which he says he considered the coolest thing ever at the time.)
  • Late Saturday afternoon, the bikers started to show up: “By late in the evening about fifty members of the motorcycle club ‘Satan’s Choice’ and ‘Para-Dice Riders’ were on the grounds…They terrorized the fans and took over the stage area, creating a ‘no-man’s land’ between themselves and the fans, as the latter took flight before danger could reach them.” The police moved in and arrested a bunch of people on drug and liquor charges.
  • “By noon on Sunday, in the sweltering heat, the fans drifted away. Many went to Queensborough’s Mill Pond to cool off and bathe, a few of them were in need to say the least. Seven hours earlier than anticipated, the rock festival came to an abrupt close.” The book says it was “reliably stated” that peak attendance was 7,000.
  • Okay, so you’re thinking it’s over. Ha! Things continue to get interesting. I totally could not make up this next paragraph from Way Back When…: “About twenty-five young people, recruited by Leon and James Jr. to construct privies, park cars, and collect tickets, as well as try to keep non-paying guests from swarming over the fences, were not paid in full. Boys were given verbal promises of $2.00 per hour and girls $1.50 per hour [note from Katherine here: do not even get me started at this disparity – but those were the days, my friend] for wages. The promoters claimed that $1,000.00 of gate receipts was stolen during the festival. Actually, the money had been hidden in a second-storey bedroom over the kitchen in the Quinlin [sic] farm house, which could be reached by a back stairway.” Hello? I wonder how the authors of the book knew this. Were there charges laid? Was there court testimony? Was it reported in the newspapers? Those allegations strike me as dicey unless they were proven somewhere. A wild story, if true – but is it?

Anyway. After all of this, I think we have to give the last word to the late Clayt McMurray. Clayt was co-proprietor (with his wife, Blanche – and I remember them both very fondly) of McMurray’s General Store, which was overrun with young, long-haired, free-lovin’ customers in those three days in August 1971. This comes directly from an interview with Clayt recorded in Times to Remember in Elzevir Township:

Clayton recalled the Rock Festival in 1971. He had a man helping him and the customers kept him busy putting out chocolate milk and soft drinks. He put them in the deep freeze to cool them off fast and then in the pop cooler. There would be a policeman in front of the store all the time. He was on a motorcycle, and he would be around all day long. Festival visitors swam in the mill pond. They would jump right in, clothes and all, or, in some cases with no clothes at all. It was about 90 degrees for those two or three days. The ones that had jumped into the water with their clothes on would sit on the sidewalk and their clothes would dry in about an hour. A motorcycle gang came in and the festival was closed down. It was a wild week-end, and put Queensborough on the map.

That pretty much sums it up: It was a wild weekend, and put Queensborough on the map.

Let’s conclude this report on the Rock Acres Peace Festival with some music. I think we owe it to our younger selves to hear the Stampeders do Sweet City Woman one more time, don’t you? Here we go:

56 thoughts on “The Rock Acres Peace Festival: hippies invade Queensborough

  1. What an extremely interesting and informative blog. Katherine, your journalism skills shine through every post, as well as your passion for history and your sympathetic good nature. I’m sure I am not the first person to suggest that you turn your blogs into a book at some point. It is a tremendous commitment to blog every day, and I salute your dedication.

    • Why, thank you so much for your kind words, Elinor! This post on the rock festival took a lot of time and research, but it was fun to do and in the I learned a lot about a big event in Queensborough’s history – and my own.

      • I was really there but I don’t remember much. It was a great time to be alive.

      • One of the best things about being young in the 1960s and early ’70s – we might not remember a lot of it, but we know it was the best time ever!

  2. Katherine, how incredibly interesting! I almost keeled over as I read the excerpt from ‘Way Back When’ and saw among the groups who performed at the festival MotherTucker’s Yellow Duck – I saw MTYD perform in Vancouver on more than one occasion in 1969-70. Remind me to tell you sometime about how my terribly straight-laced father came upon a rude version of their name in the Georgia Straight, Vancouver’s ‘lifestyle’ publication of today being rather much cruder back then.

  3. I’m pretty sure that Mum cut out the piece in the paper where your Dad was quoted. Maybe Nancy can dig it up – I think it’s in one othe the old photo albums at Dad’s. Interesting reading following on our Sunfest weekend here, ( which has turned into quite a big deal!

    • You have made my day with this bit of information, Valerie! Heaven knows why our family wouldn’t have a copy of the news article (well, perhaps we do and it’s stored away, and mouldering, like so many other things “above the machine shed,” as we say, up at the farm), but I am thrilled to learn that your mother was clever and foresighted enough to keep a copy for posterity. I will ask your dad or Nancy about that soonest. Meanwhile, yes, your Sunfest looks to be quite a big deal – looking through the website it strikes me that it’s along the lines of the Havelock Jamboree (just off Highway 7 in beautiful Havelock just half an hour or so west of Queensborough), which has also become a very big country-music festival. We haven’t checked it out yet but hope to one of these Augusts. I am quite sure these modern-day versions of the hippiefests of yore are rather better at things like ensuring adequate food and water supplies – and bathroom facilities!

  4. Somebody dial up those cheeky Quinlan boys on the world wide witchcraft and find out who they actually booked for the big event!! All this reporting about a music festival and no reporting about ANY of the music – from anybody! (except that grouchy reporter talking about Stampeders and Pepsi?!)
    But at least we know the full story of the toilets.
    You really could hear it ‘in town’ (more than a mile away) and I remember people on motorcycles with long hair. I remember much discussion w Larry Parks in subsequent years about which gang was meaner – Satan’s Choice or Paradise Riders.
    April Wine? Yes? No? They musta been there.

    • Unfortunately (for reporting and research purposes) the Quinlans sold their farm long ago, so I don’t know where Leon and James Jr. might be now; perhaps someone out there does? It would be fascinating to interview them. You’re right about the lack of reportage on the music; I too was struck by that. I think people in the area were far busier worrying about the hippies tearing up their fields and rail fences (and perhaps fornicating in public) than they were about who was onstage. It does sound like a good fit for April Wine, though maybe that band came a little later than 1971?

  5. I think it is high time we had another rock festival. Kathy, if you could get the ball rolling…

    As for the original rock festival, I remember peering across the millpond to get a glimpse of the skinny dippers. Interestingly enough, I don’t recall any trespassers on our side.

    It was our first summer in Queensborough. Just as we thought the previous winter’s record snowfall was “normal”, so we thought rock festivals were normal occurrences for the area.

    • Hey Peter, I’m glad you found it and enjoyed it! Were you by any chance one of those who attended the Rock Acres Peace Festival?

      And on another note, what a great site you have! (Readers: it’s at Very cool to read your accounts of hiking all over the place, and particularly the Appalachian Trail since I am just finishing Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods. And your early-spring photos of the Vanderwater Conservation Area are gorgeous!

      • Hey Katherine,
        No, I wasn’t there. I was working in the theatre at the time, in England and in Toronto. In fact our mutual friend, Elaine K. asked me if a fellow local musician and I were there and put me onto your site. I probably would have been if I had been around — I looked like many of the audience in one of the pictures you had in your piece.

        Thanks for the kind words re; the layout is awful, but one day I’ll get a better grip on the software; meanwhile I’m glad the info is useful for people interested in getting out onto the trails.

        I’m addicted to walking. After reading Bill Bryson’s book, you have to give a piece of the Appalachian Trail a try. The southern bit that I tackled involved incredible ups and downs. Bryson’s descriptions (especially of his extreme exhaustion) capture it very well.

        Great blog. You have a new fan!

      • Well I’m so tickled to hear that, Peter – thank you! As for walking, it runs in my family to enjoy good long (like, five miles or more at a stretch) walks, but going onto a trail and camping is something that I’m not familiar with. (And I confess I’ve never been a fan of camping.) I have to say what appeals most in Bryson’s book is his early-on description of hiking in the Cotswolds, where one can descend from the trail in the late afternoon or early evening for a nice hot bath, supper, and a good bed. Now that is my kind of hiking!

        But anyway, welcome to Meanwhile, at the Manse! Maybe you and Elaine and I could work on putting together some suggested walks in the Queensborough area…

  6. Hi Katherine, What a fantastic job you have done reporting the Rock Acres Peace Festival. I remember the 4 long hair boys cramming into my Volkswagon “bug” and going to the festival. My car had a big peace sign on the sides and was featured on the CBC news when they flew over and filmed the site for the evening news. Barbara took the pictures and it wasn’t until after we met over a year later did we discover that we both attended the festival. Please use the pictures and keep up the great reporting. Peace out.
    Dennis Weir

    • Dennis, you can’t believe how happy I am to hear from you (and, via you, Barbara)! Your (okay, Barbara’s, but you posted them) photos of Queensborough’s Rock Acres Peace festival are very probably the best in existence. And I am thrilled and honoured to hear that you think I have done justice to the event in my research and reporting. (It was a lot of work!) Peace out to you too, my friends!

  7. I was there. I can remember one time, about two weeks before the festival, we were in Belleville, and driving north on Hwy 62 to return to Madoc. Just as we were about to approach the 401 area, several (20, at least) OPP cruisers came off the 401 and they went north. With all of the fuss about the upcoming rock festival/invasion of hippies, we wondered if it had something to do with police setting up their presence, in case of trouble. Well, a bit early for that, but who knows. Anyway, I managed to get to the festival, but not for very long, just for the Saturday afternoon and early evening. I heard later that fights broke out on the evening, so maybe it’s just as well that I left when I did. Can’t say that I remember too much of it, although a band member poured a bottle of wine over the people in the front during his performance. And, then, a return to a civil atmosphere with a very quiet Sunday!

      • No, I’m afraid I don’t recall. Edward Bear, maybe? Possibly Lighthouse, but maybe not. I think those two were being considered. As to whether or not they actually performed is not something I can confirm.

      • Hey, Jay, thanks for this! Steel River isn’t a band I was familiar with, but thanks to your mention I’ve looked them up here. It’s fantastic to collect more and more detail about all aspects of the Rock Acres Peace Festival, including the bands that played there and the songs they played.

  8. I was there,my buddy Dave & I drove from Ottawa in my bright yellow Austin American car. Arrived on the Friday & returned home Sunday. I had a 8 track player in the car, with 2 huge speakers with long wires so they could be set on the roof of the car, played music all night. We paid to get in. It turned out to be a great time, We were both 21 in 71.

    • Wow, Chuck, it is wonderful to hear from yet another person who was at Rock Acres! And in an Austin to boot! Oh man, to have been 21 in ’71… Hey, you must come back and visit Queensborough one of these times!

  9. Hay its the grandson of jim Quinlin Dennis Quinlin of Cobourg it would be great to have just one more Rock Acres Peace Festival you never now

    • Dennis, how wonderful to hear from you! And you’re only over in Cobourg – my goodness, you should come visit the site of Rock Acres with us one of these times! Have you heard stories about it from your parents and grandparents? I would love to hear them! Here’s another thing I find interesting: that your last name is spelled Quinlin and not “Quinlan” as I (apparently incorrectly) spelled it, and as the road itself (Quinlan Road) is spelled on the signs. We might have to try to set that to rights!

      • That was my grandfathers farm i am Dennis Quinlin Stafford Quinlin son i was three years old and remember being there jimmy and Leon have passed my father is there older brother he is the only bro still alive i go back to the farm all the time my farther brother and i farmed it for years up until the 90s

      • Hello, Dennis! I am thrilled to hear from a member of the family that hosted the Rock Acres Peace Festival all those years ago. Though actually I think you commented once before, and after that I tried to reach you – we were looking for a member of the Quinlin family to be on hand during Historic Queensborough Day for the unveiling of our historic sign, which features (among other notable things in our hamlet’s history) Rock Acres. It would be great to meet you and your dad – the next time you’re planning a Queensborough visit, please let me know! My email is Thanks for finding Meanwhile, at the Manse!

    • Glad you found this, Plaug! I came across it myself back when my pal Brett wrote the story, and was thrilled to learn, thanks to that poster, of the bands that were scheduled to appear at the Rock Acres Peace Festival – though it seems not all of them actually did. I wrote about that great find here.

  10. I was there, 4 of us went on Saturday from Peterborough. I know some of the bands who were supposed to play were….Stampeders, Crowbar, Fludd, April Wine, Major Hoople’s Boarding House, Edward Bear, Mornington Drive etc. Really don’t remember who played the day I was there. We sat under a tower down below the raised stage with a bunch of other people from the Peterborough area having a great time. I saw most of these bands at high school dances in the same era believe it or not. Great gathering of Canadian talent.

    • Wow – thank you for sharing your Rock Acres memories, Rob! You’re absolutely right that there was a lot of musical talent on the Ontario circuit in those days, and yeah, to think a lot of those bands played high-school dances – amazing!

  11. I remember the Rock Acres Peace Festival for the music, the freedom and unfortunately the violence. I will start at the beginning. We arrived on Thursday afternoon after hitchhiking from Belleville. Woodstock was still fresh in our minds and we so wanted to experience something similar. So there we were, Chris B., Chris H., Larry C. and myself Neil B. We set up our tents close to the stage (which later proved to be a huge mistake) and claimed our small piece of real estate for the next 3 days. The atmosphere was wonderful. We helped with the crew set up the stage and sound system. I wandered through the grounds meeting people, sharing “cigs” and listening to prerecorded music. On Friday afternoon the music started and everyone was in a great party mood. It gets a little fuzzy for me here but I am pretty sure that the Stampeders were playing on Friday night and I remember them doing Sweet City Woman. The bass player went into a bass solo that had the whole ground shakin..everybody was into it. It was great. Saturday, during the day several groups played. All great Canadian talent. Saturday night was when I think I saw God. The band Steel River (Ten Pound Note) was playing and it was the first time that I had ever heard War Pigs a song originally by Black Sabbath and it was being covered by Steel River. It was amazing. At the time I was into Cream, Joe Cocker and Jimi but that night I added metal to my list. As I write this I am listening to Sabbath as inspiration. 🙂
    We went back to our tents that night only to find that the Para-Dice motorcycle club had set up shop right behind us. I remember them drinking wine out of gallon jugs and I remember them getting violent. They came into our tent to rob us. We did not have any money but they drag my friend Larry out and tore his watch off his hand. Then a number of them dragged some poor guy out of his tent and roughed him up while others took turns raping his girlfriend inside their tent. It was awful and to this day I feel guilty for not trying to stop it. I was terrified. These assholes looked like they would kill people for kicks.
    The police were nowhere to be found. We looked everywhere for a cop..but never laid eyes on one.
    We were awake all night. We never went back for our tent or our belongings . On Sunday morning we decided to cut our losses and leave. I remember as we walked out that there were all kinds of rolled up balls of tinfoil on the ground..and when we opened them up we found hash. We promptly rolled them back up again and put them in our pocket which was a really stupid thing to do because the OPP checking people as they exited the grounds. We decided to just play innocent as we sat near the entrance and watch the goings on. The OPP were confiscating motorcycles and laying charges. It was quite a sight.
    Then we walked through Madoc and I remember meeting a guy downtown and he had been beaten up pretty bad. There was lots of broken glass everywhere. All of this attributed to the MC gangs.
    The event was something I will never forget. I kind of grew up over those 3 days. I was witness to so much. So much good and so much bad. I was 17 years of age.

    • Neil, this is an amazing story, both the good and the bad, and I thank you so much for sharing it. At the time we heard about the bikers showing up, and there were stories of violence and sexual assault, but I was never sure how much was fact and how much rumour. You certainly have confirmed the dark side of things, and it must have been a horrific experience. I’m glad, though, that you also shared your good memories of Rock Acres, before the *rude word plural here* showed up. It all adds to the story of one of the more significant events ever to happen in Queensborough. Thank you again, and happy Sabbath listening!

  12. Oh |My Goodness! This sure brings back memories. My boyfriend came home from University in Toronto and picked me up in Peterborough. For some HORRIBLE reason the guy with the snake decided he was going to sleep in our tent! I’m absolutely PHOBIC about creepy crawlies so we moved to my boyfriends Jeep to sleep. When all hell broke loose with the bikers we beat a hasty retreat. While we were at the festival, I remember chatting with another lad from Peterborough. Two years later we were married.
    It was an interesting event to say the least!

    • Hi Karen! I’m so glad that yet another attendee at Rock Acres has come across my posts about it. But wow, wow, wow – not just any attendee, but the poor soul who had to (briefly) share a tent with that famous guy with the snake! I remember him (and it) well from when they visited “downtown” Queensborough. Poor you! On the other hand, how cool that you ended up meeting the guy you would marry at Rock Acres. That is delightful. Thank you for writing in!

  13. My uncle was Earl Sager — one of the “Sager Brothers” who lived for years at the Kincaid place with my uncle Gordon and Grandmother. Not sure what he thought about the festival or if he was still reeve and/or warden at the time, but I recall him saying he had gone over to check out the goings-on and figured he had much more fun that many of the people he saw there!

    • Hi Anne – how wonderful to hear from a niece of one of the Sager Brothers! They were kind of legendary (in a very good way) when I was growing up here, and I think of them every time I pass their farm (which I still think of as the Sager Brothers’ farm). Great story about Earl’s report on the rock festival! That farm was pretty close to the action. Hey! Maybe you can tell me whether it’s Gordon or Earl Sager in the photo in this post – I’d love to know!

  14. This is a short note to let you know that both Leon and Jim have both passed away. Not sure exact dates but Leon quite a few years ago and Jim shortly after him. Leon, Jim and I were friends back in the late 60’s and early 70’s when they were living in Trenton. Many a rockin’ party at Leon’s house. He was always a music guy (the way he played guitar like Lennon) with his band.

    • I am very sorry to hear that Leon and Jim are both now gone, Gregory, but thank you so much for letting me know and for adding this important piece of information to the story of the Rock Acres Peace Festival. I would have loved to have been at one of those rockin’ parties back in the day!

  15. Really enjoyed reading this site. I was at the Festival Friday night. I played keyboards in a Toronto band called ‘Piledriver’ . We performed Friday at dusk and seemed to rock the crowd by their response. Unfortunately, we left very late Friday night because we had another gig the next night and didn’t get to experience the Festival for the whole weekend.

    • Wow, Brad, I am thrilled to hear from a musician who performed at Rock Acres – thank you so much for this! I tried to find out more about Piledriver, but only came up with references to a 1980s heavy-metal band by that name – clearly not the same Piledriver. (Should you happen to have such a thing as a publicity photo of the band from back in the day, I’d love to see it.) But I checked the photo I have of a poster for the festival, and indeed, there’s your band. So cool!

  16. My father worked with St. John Ambulance to provide medical services at Rock Acres and other Woodstock-inspired festivals at the time. He was in his mid-50’s then, definitely not a hippie, but was very impressed with Lighthouse!

      • Hi Katherine, unfortunately my father passed away in 1977, We may have some artifacts in a box somewhere; I can let you know if I find anything.There’s also a slight chance that my older brother was there helping with registration at the medical tent – I will ask him.

      • Thank you so much, Tom. What an interesting time it must have been for your dad, going to those music festivals. I expect there was a fair bit going on to keep a medical person busy!

  17. I was there with a contingent of kids from Youngstown,Ohio…Me and a buddy of mine hitched up there together…the Youngstowners had a flag flying and we wound up connecting with them…I never really got close to the biker BS, but as I slept that evening, somebody stole my hat ( that I was quite fond of)…But we all had a fun time at the festival…good music and fellowship, having spent most of it under the influence of one mind altering substance or another…I couldn’t have custom ordered a more enjoyable outing for a young flower child as myself
    But what happened next was, well, different…and kind of exciting in a “holy shit” sort of way…

    We managed to snag a spot in a home town car for a ride back to the states…. As we were leaving ,the police were doing random stop and searches….We had heard about this earlier , and everybody was instructed, by the owner of the car, to get rid of their leftover stash, to avoid any unpleasant delays.
    As it turns out, we, of course, get stopped for a random search….And in the trunk of the car, there was a pipe in the pocket of a jacket belonging to the owner of the car, who was promptly arrested for, “possession of cannabis resins”, and taken to jail……
    So now there are seven 20 year old kids in Canada with nowhere to stay…and we spent that day (and night) in a little nearby village…with a pond close by where we could bathe and clean our clothes…. There were people who were kind enough to let us have their towels until our clothes were dry…And I remember eating at a lunch counter in a Woolworths kind of store…One of the specials for about 60 cents….I had given most of the money I had left, about $1.50, to the guy driving us home…
    The next day we go to court to see what the fate of the driver will be…We talk to him and he says he has spoken to his parents, who have wired the money for his fine, and as soon as the police receive it, hell be free to go….(I remember the court had several men wearing powdered wigs and black robes)
    This is a Monday and we’re all waiting for our ride guy to come walking out of the courthouse so we can be on our way…For reasons unknown to this day, he had to spend another night in jail and we had to camp out another day…He did get out the following (Tuesday) morning….but now we all have less money (for gas and food) having had to stay another day….
    Now, finally on the road home, we stop at a gas station and the driver tells the attendant to “fill it up” and we all head for the rest rooms and such…We come out to find that there isn’t enough money to pay for the gas that has just been put into the car….Fortunately, there is an adult nearby that has overheard our plight and offers to pay for the gas

    • Frank, this is just a wonderful story, and I can’t thank you enough for sending it along and thus adding to Rock Acres Peace Festival lore. All the way from Youngstown, Ohio, to Queensborough – wow! I’m thinking the village where you stayed overnight was probably Tweed, or maybe Madoc; the courthouse must have been in Belleville, which is a small city about a 40-minute drive south and might well have had something resembling a Woolworth’s. I loved reading about your troupe’s adventures, and how nice that it all had a happy ending thanks to the kindness of a stranger. Thank you again!

  18. This is a very good read but this is my great grandparents and our last name is QUINLIN
    NOT Quinlan .

    I would just like people to know this

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