A perfect little bit of history from the Rock Acres Peace Festival

Rock Acres Peace Festival ticket

(Photo courtesy of Ken Broad)

You wonderful people who read this blog, and sometimes comment, and share your knowledge, never cease to amaze me. In previous posts I’ve asked for advice on things like leaf-mulching lawnmowers and wood-burning stoves, and whether I should buy certain pieces of mid-century furniture, and every single time people have shared very helpful information and opinions. But I have to tell you that getting this photo – in answer to yesterday’s post on Queensborough’s Rock Acres Peace Festival in 1971 – may very well take the cake. I just gasped when I opened up the photo attachment in my email this morning: “It’s a ticket from the Queensborough rock festival!” I squealed at Raymond.

The email came from Ken Broad, who told me that at the time of the festival his family lived on a farm adjacent to the Quinlan farm, where the Rock Acres festival took place. I was just so tickled that he had held onto it for all these years; I imagine there can’t be too many of those tickets still out there. And I was even more tickled that he took the trouble to send the photo so that all of you can see it too. Thank you, Ken!

A couple of things to note on the ticket:

  • The dates of July 3-4-5, 1971, were when the festival was originally supposed to take place but, as I mentioned in my first report on the subject, legal wrangles between the Quinlans and various levels of municipal government – which did their best to keep it from happening – delayed it until Aug. 6-7-8, 1971. I guess the tickets must have got printed well before then.
  • The “L.E.J.J.” in “L.E.J.J. Enterprizes” (interesting spelling, that) almost certainly stands for Leon and James Jr. Quinlan, the enterprising brothers and would-be impresarios who decided that their family farm outside Queensborough was just the place for a rock festival. I rather suspect the Rock Acres Peace Festival was the first and last effort of L.E.J.J. Enterprizes, but who knows? I’m still hoping someone might be able to put me in touch with one or the other of the brothers; I’d love to interview them about those three heady days and what happened before and after the hippies and the musicians descended on their farm.

Anyway, I hope anyone else out there with knowledge (or photos!) of the festival will also share. If you email photos to me at sedgwickbrassard@videotron.ca sedgwick.katherine@gmail.com, I’ll first squeal with delight (as I did this morning) and then be ever so pleased to share them with all the other people who are (as my brother John put it in a comment yesterday) “struck by the total awesomeness” of that long-ago, crazy Rock Acres event.

8 thoughts on “A perfect little bit of history from the Rock Acres Peace Festival

  1. Hello Katherine,

    I must tell you how great it was to come across and read your 3 postings on Meanwhile, at the Manse regarding the Rock Acres Peace Festival. It brought back many fond memories of the summer of 1971.

    Having recently turned 17 years old and with my parents away for the summer, it was a fantastic time for a middle class, teenage boy from the Toronto suburbs to have aspirations of being a hippie. As I recall, the local radio station, CHUM FM, talked about the Rock Acres Peace Festival from about June or so. Several of my buddies and I planned to go but I don’t remember if we got tickets in advance. As the July dates were postponed to August, this was going to be my second outdoor, weekend music festival of the summer as we also went to Rockhill ’71 in Mulmur Township, northeast of Shelburne, on July 2-4.

    A buddy of mine and I hitchhiked from the north of Toronto to Queensborough on the morning of August 6. Stupidly, we chose Highway 7 instead of Highway 401. It took us about 8 hours, most of it with our thumbs stuck out, as surprise, surprise, no one wanted to give 2 longhaired, grubby guys a ride. Our more memorable lift was from these 2, what we called, greasers, an uncle and his nephew, in their convertible, somewhere west of Norwood. They mostly wanted to have a little fun with these 2 hippie boys as they kept on joking about pulling the gun out from under the front passenger seat while they passed a mickey back and forth. “Uh, guys? You can let us out anywhere here, that’ll be fine. Thanks for the ride.”

    Once we got to Queensborough we made a grocery run to one of the general stores. I remember thinking how cool is this place, especially compared to suburban Toronto. Lots of our types of people milling around. We met up with about 8 other of our Toronto friends when we got to the festival site. Funny how little recollection I have of the festival site, the layout and the bands. Even the photos on your blog didn’t help. Another buddy and I reminisced and even he can’t remember. We do remember the bikers, and actually keeping away from the stage area because of them. That being said, it was a pretty cool weekend. Rumour has it, that it may have had something to do with our partaking, several times actually, in the use of alternative methods of exploring the sensory and psychological world around us.

    To this day, the Saturday night of the weekend holds one of my best memories. It was late at night, the bands had finished, the bikers were calmed down, it was fairly quiet, we were sitting around our fire, and I was lying back on my sleeping bag looking up and enjoying the night sky and the stars. Not far away, coming from someone’s 8-track tape player, came the Rolling Stones song Moonlight Mile. I was, and am, a huge Stones fan to begin with, and that song was already a favourite of mine. But that night, in that atmosphere, under those conditions, the song was sublime. Anyone who knows the song, with Mick’s voice alternating between singing and sighs, the last minute and half gradual build up of guitar, piano and strings to the exquisite finish, can appreciate what I mean. It was transcendent. As mentioned, to this day when I hear Moonlight Mile, I close my eyes, think of that night and remember how special it was and how lucky I was to live in and be a product of those times.

    We left the next day, tired, hungry, dirty but happy. It was a fun 3 days at the Rock Acres Peace Festival and in Queensborough. My buddy and I may have to do a road trip back this summer.


    • Bert, I can’t begin to tell you how much I enjoyed your first-person story about the Rock Acres Peace Festival – thank you! (And I hope you’ll appreciate that I am listening to the Stones sing Moonlight Mile [a song I was not heretofore familiar with] as I type this.) Great (in retrospect, obviously) story about the two locals who gave you two hippies a lift (and a scare, I would imagine). But your description of that transcendent night under the stars, when all the world was young (as I like to say) is just gorgeous. So very evocative of that time and place. Yes, you must come back for a visit in the summer. I’d love to don my reporter’s hat and go out and visit the site with someone who was there!

    • Bert, consider it done – in fact, email already sent. Thank you in advance for sending the picture of your ticket – how awesome that you’ve kept it all these years! Hey, do you also have any photos of you and your friends at the festival, or in “downtown” Queensborough?

      • Hi Katherine,

        Unfortunately, no, I do not have any pictures of our memorable weekend in Queensborough and the Rock Acres Peace Festival. In discussing this with a buddy of mine that was there with me, we regret that neither we nor any of our friends brought a camera. We agreed though, how many 17 year olds in 1971 had a camera, or would risk bringing one to a rock festival. We didn’t even bring a change of clothes or food, which was half the fun. The next school year, in my grade 12 art class, I discovered photography, which led to a 30 year career in it. We’ll bring a camera this summer for the re-enactment.

        Love what you’ve done with my little reminiscing, image of the ticket, and Moonlight Mile. Nice touch. Thanks for the kind words.

      • Good point about a rock festival perhaps not being the greatest place for a 17-year-old to bring a camera, Bert – and my goodness, it made me smile that you guys didn’t even bring anything to eat or a change of clothes! But all the more reason to enjoy our general stores in downtown Queensborough, I guess. Ah, the hippie life…

  2. Hi Katherine,
    I just read you article concerning the Rock Acres Peace Festival. It was held at my uncle and aunt’s farm. My mother Alice and Margaret were sisters. Every summer when I was a child we would spend a week at uncle Jim’s farm. Your article certainly brought back happy memories for me.
    Jim and Margaret are deceased as are Leon and Jim Jr. . In fact there is only Barbara, the youngest daughter who now lives in Frankford, Ontario. Her brother Stafford is at death’s door suffering from a severe cancer.
    It was such a pleasure reading your article. I could see myself way back then running through the fields, playing with my cousins and having a great time. Going back to Ottawa was always quite difficult.

    • Marilyn, I am absolutely delighted to hear from you! And so happy that you came upon my posts about Rock Acres. Thank you for updating me about the Quinlan family. (And by the way, can you give me a definitive ruling on whether it’s spelled Quinlan or Quinlin?) I am so sorry to hear about Stafford. I believe his wife contacted me two or three years ago and we’d talked about a get-together in Queensborough, but like so many things in this busy life, it got pushed back. I am really glad to hear from you, and might at some point ask you for help reaching Barbara. Meanwhile, I am happy that I was able to bring back good childhood memories for you. The family farm is certainly in a beautiful part of Ontario!

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