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State Historical Society of Iowa Press Release

For immediate release July 19, 2010

Contact: Jeff Morgan, Jeff.Morgan@iowa.gov, (515) 281-3858

Historical Museum marks 40th anniversary of Wadena Rock Festival

30,000 to 45,000 people attended highly controversial three-day concert event

(DES MOINES) – The State Historical Museum will mark the 40th anniversary of the Wadena Rock Festival with a free event at 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 1, 2010, at the State Historical Building, 600 E. Locust Street in Des Moines.

The event will feature:

  • An exhibit of Wadena Rock Festival memorabilia, including photos, a rare poster print and newspaper clippings in honor of the anniversary.
  • A special multi-media presentation featuring images from the festival and music.
  • A panel discussion with:
    • Governor Robert Ray
    • Dennis Naughton, who is researching and writing a book about the Wadena Rock Festival
    • Gerald Blue of the Fayette County Union newspaper (photos he took at the Wadena Rock Festival will be included in the multi-media presentation)
    • Ron Sorenson of KFMG Radio
  • Snacks, beverages and “Wadena Rocks” 40th anniversary tee-shirts will be available for purchase.

“In 1970, the Wadena Rock Festival plunged Iowa into controversy that reached all the way up to the offices of the attorney general and governor,” Department of Cultural Affairs Director Cyndi Pederson. “The social and political climate of those times, and the legal issues surrounding the event, has tremendous historical value today. I encourage anybody with an interest in this topic to attend this event in August.”

In the summer of 1970, concert promoters nationwide were scrambling to re-create Woodstock from a year earlier.

The Midwest was no different. Chicago-based Sound Storm Enterprises was looking to hold a multi-day rock festival in Galena, Ill.

But resistance from local residents forced concert organizers to search for a new venue. They found it on the farm of Clarence “Curly” Schmitt just outside Wadena in northeast Iowa.

Dubbed “Galena in Wadena” due to the last-minute venue change, the music festival lasted three days, July 31-Aug. 2, 1970, with acts on stage day and night playing for an audience that has been estimated between 30,000 to 45,000 people.

Among the acts scheduled to perform were The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Everly Brothers, Mason Proffitt, Ian & Sylvia, Albert King, Poco, Little Richard, The Guess Who, Leon Russell, Johnny Winter and REO Speedwagon.

Though promoters encountered legal obstacles in Wadena, they went forward with the event despite being served an injunction, claiming it was too late to stop it from happening.

When the music ended, however, the legal issues remained.

Iowa Attorney General Richard B. Turner and Fayette County Attorney Walter Saur sued Sound Storm Enterprises and the Wadena Development Corporation for more than $1 million in damages, and new legislation promised to curtail such events in the future.

More information about the State Historical Museum is available at www.iowahistory.org.


The State Historical Society of Iowa is a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, and is a trustee of Iowa's historical legacy and an advocate for understanding Iowa's past. It identifies, records, collects, preserves, manages and provides access to Iowa's historical resources. Its dual mission of preservation and education serves Iowans of all ages, conducts and stimulates research, disseminates information, and encourages and supports historical preservation and education efforts of others throughout the state. Visit www.iowahistory.org or call 515-281-5111 for more information.


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