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Everyone was feelin' groovy at Vortex anniversary party

Estacada area resident Deborah Bogart remembers the Vortex rock festival 45 summers ago very well. It was her honeymoon.

Bogart had just been married at the Oregon City courthouse and spent the next week in a tent with 11 other people having the time of her life.

“My most vivid memory is a National Guard guy held a flashlight while I rolled a joint,” she said.

That 1970 spirit of live-and-let-live was honored Saturday, Aug. 8, at Milo McIver State Park, the site of the original festival, at the 45th anniversary celebration of the event.

The anniversary fete featured rock music, tie dye, bubbles, a panel discussion, face painting and all manner of fun.

“We love this event,” said McIver camp host Tom Langley, who got into the spirit of things with his far out tie dye T-shirt. “It has been really good.”

The original Vortex festival ran from Aug. 28 to Sept. 3, 1970, and estimates of attendance ran between 40,000 and 100,000.

The 1970 shindig was free, as was the anniversary celebration. At the original, donations and volunteers took care of food and the health and safety needs of the huge crowd. The traffic jam caused by Vortex extended 20 miles back to Portland.

Vortex I is the only state-sponsored rock festival in American history, said Matt Love, who literally wrote the book on the festival, “The Far Out Story of Vortex I.”

The political climate that 1970 summer was tense. Four students were killed and nine students wounded by National Guard troops at Kent State University in May. Protests against the Vietnam War were raging and President Richard Nixon was scheduled to speak at an American Legion convention in Portland.

Officials worried this would draw gigantic, and likely dangerous, protests. Trying to head off trouble, Gov. Tom McCall worked with antiwar demonstrators to organize the Vortex festival at Milo McIver, drawing potential protesters out of Portland.

The unorthodox move didn’t kill McCall’s career, as some predicted. He went on to win reelection and is considered one of Oregon’s foremost politicians. Now all that is a distant memory, but the spirit of Vortex lives on.

Kim Strange came from Portland to enjoy the outdoor commemoration. “I came with the band,” she said, prompting laughter and shouts of “groupie” at the face painting tent. “I thought it would be fun.”

Former Estacada City Councilor Sean Drinkwine was bopping to the music and tried his hand with a tie dye T-shirt. “This is fun,” he said, “Estacada really has a lot going on these days.”

Author Love said, “I can’t believe how much effort the State Parks department put into this. They’ve really honored the event.”

Jeff Appleman, who hitchhiked out to the original Vortex from Lake Oswego, was enjoying the anniversary celebration and remembers Vortex fondly. He recalls the nudity, drugs and meeting a music hero, bluesman Charlie Musselwhite. “It was one of the most memorable events of my youth.”