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Monday, May 31, 2010

Kickapoo Joy Juice: Heyworth Rocks!

This from an astute Maroon reader

Mr. Powers, I can't help but notice that, has been silent on
the just past 40th anniversary of Heyworth Rock Festival at Kickappo
Creek. There is a documentary showing Tuesday night in Normal.
T-Shirts are being sold by one of Heyworth's finest Kerry Kidwell &
family. Was Wapella simply uneffected by hippees in rural McLean
County? Those of us Clintucky need to know!
Well, lets break the silence. The Heyworth Happening rocked hard and was even caught on film. I stopped at the Normal Theater today, they didn't know much about it, but the crowd at the Circle the night before remembered it well and did their best to recreate the Incident on the Northside of Wapella via Karaoke.

The Festival lineup was full of future hall of famers with locals Michael McDonald, (later of Doobie Brothers fame), Dan Fogelberg and REO Speedwagon. The headliner band list included blues legend BB King, Canned Heat, Country Joe and the Fish, Butterfield Blues Band, Rick Nielsen and Fuse, New Colony 6 and the Amboy Dukes featuring a young Motor City Madman, among thirty odd bands that played during the three day festival. The Karoake leaned towards Johnny Cash and George Jones, with some fine blues harmonica played one of the Whites from Waynesville.

The New York Times has it that the movie about the festival "offers a fascinating glimpse of the clash of a midwestern community still trying to shake off the mores and conformity of the fifties, and the emerging counterculture" which was directly contradicted by pretty much everyone who was in Central Illinois at that time. A commenter here with a Wapella name..
Ella Rousey
i was there, but not at the concert. My grandmother lived on a farm that the "creek" ran through. I remember them thinking that drug crazed hippies were going to overrun the place. I was 10.... I remember it being no big deal in the end as far as trouble. My grandmothers farm was safe and that event was talked about for quite awhile.

which sounds much more likely.

My assumption is that the New York Times reviewer had been watching Footloose over and over and had decided that the establishment in Heyworth was sort of like the squares in Footloose trying to keep the kids from dancing. Or perhaps Billy Jack, with the kids from the Freedom School taking a field trip to Heyworth for the Kickapoo Festival, and the writer at the Times imagining himself as the noble half-breed Billy Jack battling against "conventional mores" in Heyworth. In either case, the reiviewer's juvenile narrative takes away from what is generally remembered as a good time with great rock and roll by, gasp, the residents of the very same midwestern community that the Billy Jack obsessed review was sneering at.

Most people of that age remember a story or two from the festival. One of my best friends, the late great Jim Merida set up camp at the festival and brought along his Super 8 camera. A relative of mine got a well earned beating for causing a ruckus during one of the acts, and was able to shrug it off, perhaps he was beaten to shake off his conventional mores, unlike the many other beatings he earned over the years for a chronic ruckus causing condition.

Many locals made the trek north just to enjoy some good rock and roll and have some fun, then come home that night back to Wapella, which was pretty much the consensus of the people I talked to about the show. Nothing wrong with that, in fact, isn't it about time for another Kickapoo Festival? Anyone with a 640 they want to put to good use for a few days around Memorial Day next year?


Unknown said...

Actually JB, I wrote that little piece of "criticism" on the NYT website because I was shocked they even had the movie listed in their database, since it hasn't been seen by anyone outside of Illinois.
I admit "clash" is a bit of a harsh term. If you've seen the film, one of the funniest moments is a clip of the "locals" peering over some bushes watching the festivalgoers skinny dip in the Kickapoo. They just can't turn their eyes away from it!
But you're right about it turning out to be not much of a big deal in the aftermath. If only the powers that be (no pun intended) had put as much energy into embracing it as they did in fighting to stop it.

JBP said...


I was hoping it was a New York twerp rather than one of our most valuable readers. If I knew it was you, I would have been more rude.

You could have 60,000 people at a Pillsbury bake-off in Heyworth and it would be bound to cause a ruckus as well, and probably even more skinnydipping and fence peepers.


Unknown said...

Kinda like having two dozen at the Irish Circle, eh?

JBP said...

That too...

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