From August 28 to September 3 in 1970, Milo McIver State Park hosted Vortex I, a Woodstock-like concert with a mission to prevent anti-war violence. Fifty years later, Vortex 2020 aims to honor that history. 

New York had Woodstock. Oregon had Vortex I: A Biodegradable Festival of Life, or simply Vortex I, the nation’s first—and only—state-sponsored rock festival in Clackamas County.

From August 28 to September 3 in 1970, Vortex I, which took place at Milo McIver State Park, had served as sort of a distraction from a scheduled appearance by President Richard Nixon at the annual American Legion’s convention on August 30. The nation was deep in the throes of the Vietnam War. Oregon, still reeling from the tragedy at Kent State University in which four students were killed by the National Guard. In Portland, the Peoples’ Army Jamboree, an anti-war group, were organizing to protest the Legion’s convention. Violence seemed imminent.

At the height of this fear, tension, and uncertainty, a handful of activists known as The Family suggested trying that old Plastic Ono Band chorus and giving peace a chance. They proposed a music festival, a Woodstock-like concert that could help ease some of the anxieties of the time, and with the help of then-Governor Tom McCall, Vortex I was born.

Fifty years later, a group of musicians, outdoor enthusiasts, nonprofit leaders, and others are celebrating the semi-centennial anniversary of the seminal festival with Vortex 2020, which will “honor that history by mobilizing Oregonians to work side by side on projects that highlight our shared values,” according to a press release issued on Wednesday.

New York had Woodstock. Oregon had Vortex I: A Biodegradable Festival of Life, or simply Vortex I, the nation’s first—and only—state-sponsored rock festival in Clackamas County.

“If [Vortex 2020 was] going to be about unity, we had to be able to develop projects where people of different persuasions could work side by side and could agree on the importance of the work they’re doing,” Nate Overmeyer, one of the festival’s organizers, told Portland Monthly. “[Vortex 2020 is about] honoring our past, it’s honoring our history. It’s also an opportunity for inspiring a new generation to continue the social and environmental work that came out of Vortex I, the kind of grass roots organizing and can-do spirit of that time.”

At its core, Vortex 2020 is about volunteerism, says Overmeyer. Rather than charging a price for admission, the organizers are asking attendees to volunteer their time at one of the many nonprofits with which the festival has partnered, including Portland Parks and Recreation, SOLVE, Oregon State Parks, Columbia Watershed Council, and others. The organizers are also inviting nonprofits from across the state to add their own projects to the collection of volunteer opportunities.

Among the scheduled performers are The Dandy Warhols, Pink Martini, Edna Vazquez, Fountaine, Bocha, and more, with an appearance by filmmaker Gus Van Sant. More artists and performers will be announced at a later date.

Vortex 2020:

Aug 22—23, Milo McIver State Park Estecada, Oregon

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