You’ll hear a lot this month about the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair in upstate New York in August 1969, but did you know Louisiana had its own version two weeks later?
The New Orleans Pop Festival was held Aug. 30 through Sept. 1, 1969 at the Louisiana International Speedway, an automobile racetrack in Prairieville. Headliners included some of the performers who had been at Woodstock two weeks earlier, including Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Santana, Canned Heat, Iron Butterfly, Chicago and The Byrds, as well as local performers Dr. John, Deacon John and Doug Kershaw. The event was organized by New Orleans music promoter Steve Kapelow.
“The attire of the crowd ranged from anti-Establishment hippie dress to the traditional fraternity and sorority sweatshirts,” reviewer Bob Sutherland wrote in The Times-Picayune. A Sept. 2, 1969 Associated Press article reported that local merchants “reaped a harvest from the flower children and were astonished at their unexpected good behavior.”
The Times-Picayune reported that promoters handed out a flyer with the music schedule urging festivalgoers to have fun responsibly: “There are people outside this stadium who don’t dig the sounds you’ll hear this weekend, who don’t like our hair or our clothes or our ideas and they are waiting for us to blow our cool. They want disorder. ... It’s up to us to show these people that we will react in a peaceful manner without police beating our brains out.”
In the end, the crowd of between 17,000 and 30,000 people over the three days was peaceful. There were, however, 25 arrests on drug charges, according to newspaper accounts.
The Celebration of Life started out with lofty ambitions.
When blues guitarist Little Freddie King sang Guitar Slim's “The Things That I Used to Do” on Sunday at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Fest…