First Rock Festival in North Idaho Remembered

By Steve Jackson

If you are a long time resident of the Inland Northwest, the Museum of North Idaho is hoping you may have some memorabilia from the area’s first rock festival.  The 60’s youth revolution took some time to arrive in North Idaho, but residents got to see it first hand when the regions first rock festival was held the Fourth of July weekend, 1971.

At the time officials at Farragut State Park cheerfully accepted the reservation for the event from organizers, who said it was a picnic for the Universal Life Church. That organization advertised in the underground press of the era, and offered anyone a chance to register to become a legal minister.

Famous underground cartoonist R. Crumb allowed festival organizers to use his artwork. The poster shown was posted for sale on sale on eBay.Organizer Dennis Eichhorn says he and other organizers from Spokane and Moscow became church members, but it took some time before area law enforcement figured out it wasn’t a typical church picnic.

Eichhorn: "As the day neared, the authorities were getting worried about it, because it looked like tens of thousands of people were going to descend on N Idaho, and if they weren’t they might start trouble, so allowed us to build a stage and have rock music.”

Eichhorn got several local and regional bands to play the event. Tim Killian was drummer for one of the local bands, “Greenfield Morning.” As a 17 year old, it was an opportunity to play before tens of thousands of people. But Killian says playing in the band was not the only exciting thing at the festival.

Killian: “The next best part was going down to Buttonhook bay because that’s where everybody was skinny dipping, and you couldn’t fit another boat out in buttonhook bay because everybody was checking out all the skinny dippers.”

Although Woodstock event of two years earlier had given America a good look at the hippie movement, North Idaho wasn’t completely prepared for the thousands of long hairs who showed up from all over the country. Dennis Eichhorn says there were a couple of threats of violence by locals, and cites the case of a waitress at a local café that overheard one plot.

Eichhorn: “She said she heard a couple of guys talking how they were going to take their rifles and set up across the lake form the skinny dipping place and shoot some hippies, and the State Police took it seriously and stopped these guys ad they had guns and they bragged about it, you know.”

Famous underground cartoonist R. Crumb allowed festival organizers to use his artwork.
The poster shown was posted for sale on sale on eBay.

And while there were thousands of people at the Farragut rock festival, North Idaho Museum Director Dorothy Dahlgren says they have no photos or posters of the event. She is asking the public for artifacts to add to their collection.

Dahlgren: “We prefer to get the original, and we can preserve them for future generations.” 

If you have any memorabilia from the Universal Life church picnic and would like to share it, you can contact the Museum of North Idaho in Coeur d'Aalene.
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