In 1970, Oregon hosted the only state-sponsored music festival in U.S. history.
Vortex I took place at Milo McIver State Park near Estacada 44 years ago this month and was a wild scene, indeed. The only thing that wilder? What the streets of Portland would have looked like had it not happened.
The festival was a calculated diversion by the Republican governor, who worried that young protestors reeling from the Kent State shootings would disrupt president Richard Nixon's speech in Portland.
"President Richard Nixon was scheduled to address the annual gathering of the American Legion in Portland," writes Matt Love, who’ll participate in an afternoon of commemorative events on Saturday, August 9 at the site of the original festival. "The FBI told Oregon Gov. Tom McCall, a Republican facing a tough re-election bid later that fall, that he should expect 25,000 legionnaires and 50,000 anti-war protestors connected to the concurrent People’s Army Jamboree event in Portland to clash in the streets. The ensuing mayhem would make the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago ‘look like a tea party,’ according to FBI documents.
So, instead, the state hosted a music festival, "Vortex I."
"Four young people had approached McCall’s staff in June with the unprecedented idea of holding a festival to help draw potential protesters away from Portland," says Love. "They asked McCall for a state park. He gave them one. They asked him to waive the park’s prohibition against camping and keep the cops out. McCall complied. The free festival, Vortex I: A Biodegradable Festival of Life, unfolded the last weekend in August, and 100,000 people attended at McIver Park outside of Estacada. Peace prevailed in Portland, McCall was re-elected to a second term, and there never was a Vortex II.”
Below are photos and video of the event. If you're interested in more, head out to Exploring Vortex I at Milo McIver State Park, 24101 S Entrance Road, Estacada, on Saturday, Aug 9. Noon. Donations accepted. All ages.