A return to to the Rock Acres Peace Festival, 40-odd years later

Rock Acres from the air

The Rock Acres Peace Festival in all its hippie glory, August 1971. Photo from the Hastings County Archives, dug up by festival attendee Bert all these years later.

One of the bonus offshoots of writing about the life, times and history of Queensborough and area has been getting to meet people who themselves have an interest in, or connection with, the life, times and history of Queensborough and area. It is amazing how many people I have met (either virtually, through comments and conversation on my blog posts, or in person), how many things I have learned, and how many experiences I have had that never would have happened had I not taken it into my head a little more than 2½ years ago to start Meanwhile, at the Manse.

This past weekend was a banner example of that. Raymond and I were absolutely delighted to have a visit from two people who, 43 years ago this summer, were among the hordes of long-haired music-loving people who thronged to Queensborough to attend the Rock Acres Peace Festival at the Quinlin farm just west of our little hamlet.

Bert and Barry viewing the Rock Acres site

Bert (left) and Barry, having a look (from a distance) of the scene of their Rock Acres memories (musical and otherwise) all those years ago.

(Readers, in case you didn’t know, I can proudly tell you that Meanwhile, at the Manse is the internet’s go-to source for information about those three days of Woodstock-inspired peace and music in Queensborough back in August 1971. If you click here you’ll find my initial post, filled with all kinds of useful information [if I do say so myself] on our one and only [to date] rock festival; but you’ll find other posts on the subject, many of them incorporating fresh information that readers have kindly shared, on the home page of this blog [here] if you click on the Rock Acres Peace Festival category. The “Categories” section is on the right-hand side of the home page, about a screen and a half down from the top.)

Anyway, yes, Bert and Barry, who respectively hitchhiked and drove from the Toronto area in that summer of ’71 to attend Rock Acres, when they were respectively 17 and 19 years old, came back last weekend to revisit the scene. What a pleasure it was to meet them and hear their memories of the event! And of course to ask them questions about it. Yes, people of Queensborough who remember the rock festival, of course I asked them the most important question, the one you are doubtless wondering about. And the answer is: no, Barry and Bert were not among the throngs who chose to swim nude in the Black River to cool off from the August heat.

Barry, Bert and me

Here are Rock Acres veterans Barry (left) and Bert – and me. Could I be called a Rock Acres veteran? Given that I only experienced it from a couple of miles away from the site, in “downtown” Queensborough (where we could hear the music, and it was all very exciting) – well, maybe.

The guys have nothing but good memories of the event, having sensibly made the decision at the time to steer well clear of the one bit of unpleasantness that disrupted things on the Saturday night of the festival: the arrival of some members of the rival Satan’s Choice and Para-Dice Riders motorcycle gangs. They told us that as long as one left the bikers alone, the bikers would leave you alone. Sounds like a wise course of action – and one that left a lot more time for listening to the music and looking at the stars in the clear night sky. (An experience that Bert memorably wrote about in a comment a while back, and that I reported on here.)

An original Rock Acres ticket

A historic moment, for me at least: I got to hold Bert’s original Rock Acres Peace Festival ticket! (Photo courtesy of Bert Duclos)

I think we all found it hard to believe that it has been 43 years – 43 years! – since that memorable event. (I was 11 at the time, for the record.) In the interim we have all – Bert, Barry, Raymond (who wasn’t there, but who has heard so much about Rock Acres that he probably feels like he was) and me – grown up and got responsible jobs and all that stuff.

But as the lot of us kept saying over and over during their visit this past weekend: what a time it was. Not just Rock Acres, but the ’60s and the early ’70s in general. What a time to be young. What a great, great time.

2 thoughts on “A return to to the Rock Acres Peace Festival, 40-odd years later

  1. The Rock Festival was our introduction to Centre Hastings! Later, in the 80’s, I lived in the same building as Leon Quinlan, the organizer, and we reminisced about how he spoke to John Lennon by phone, and, of course, I had known John at the College of Art in Liverpool in the 1950’s. Does anyone remember the O.P.P. motorcycle squad being based at C.F.B. Trenton, and roaring through the village? Also the supposed (pre-empted) battle between the Paradice Riders and Satan’s Choice? Haven’t been in Queensborough for at least thirty years, I enjoy your musings! Thanks, Bob Hudson.

    • And what an introduction that would be! Very interesting, Bob, that Leon actually spoke to John Lennon (not to mention the fact that you went to school with him!) – that lends credence to the “Hoping for John Lennon” that was apparently on some of the posters for Rock Acres. As for the OPP motorcycle squad, that rings the most distant of bells. You will have to come back to Queensborough one of these times and see how things have changed – or not!

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