The Outdoor Journal by Kyle Carroll
Woodstock may be the best-known rock festival of all time, but it's likely that the Ozark Music Festival held over the weekend of July 19-21, 1974, was bigger. But how is this an “ Outdoor Journal” column? Well, that's a good question.
The big festival on the State Fair grounds in Sedalia makes it into this column because my friend and high school classmate, Joe Clevenger, and I had just made a trip to south Missouri to float one of the clear Ozark streams before football practice started on the same weekend. Unbekownst to us, the big festival about to happen. We had a little money made from putting up hay and decided to head south. We could afford to buy gasoline and hamburgers, but we decided we'd just sleep in the car the first night and save our cash. The old 66 Chevy had vinyl seats, which we were stuck to when we heard car doors and commotion all around us the next morning before daylight. We learned that the parking lot at Bennett Springs wasn't the best place pull into late and to get a little sleep.
On we went to our float stream. Joe and I were country boys. The only shorts we owned were cut off blue jeans. Our feet had not seen but a few minutes off daylight all year. Hence, when we headed back north after floating, the tops of our feet and our legs were glowing.
We made it north to the vicinity of Sedalia and decided we would pull off the road and sleep a little while. We noticed stadium lights off to the east and could hear music but decided to just ignore it.
We stretched out in the seats to rest, but almost immediately noticed people walking up the road and past our car. The first couple of times it happened we didn't think too much about it, but when the random groups of hippies just keep coming, even the two of us figured out something was up. We decided to drive on and headed for the quieter pastures of northwest Missouri.
Turns out the Ozark Mountain Music Festival had attracted more folks than Woodstock, overwhelmed the event staff, and went on to become one of the biggest debacles in the history of the State fairgrounds; 250 to 350,000 people attended by some estimates. Some soil was so contaminated it had to be removed. And that's how the Ozark Mountain Music Festival of 1974, made it into The Outdoor Journal, just barely.