Sky River Rock Festival, the second, opens at Tenino on August 30, 1969.

  • By Alan J. Stein
  • Posted 6/06/1999
  • Essay 1271
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On August 30, 1969, the second Sky River Rock Festival opens in Tenino, south of Olympia. Performing at the festival are Anonymous Artists of America, Black Snake, Blue Bird, Cleanliness & Godliness Skiffle Band, Collectors, Congress of Wonders, James Cotton, Country Weather, Country Joe and the Fish, Crome Syrcus, Crow, Dovetail, Floating Bridge, Flying Burrito Brothers, Frumious Bandersnatch, Grapefruit, Guitar Shorty, Buddy Guy, Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks, Dr. Humbead's New Tranquility String Band, Juggernaut, Kaleidoscope, Los Flamencos de Santa Lucia, Fred McDowell, Steve Miller, New Lost City Ramblers, Pacific Gas & Electric, Peter, Terry Reid, Mike Russo, Sons of Champlin, Mark Spoelstra, Alice Stuart, Yellowstone, Youngbloods, and Elyse Weinberg.

They Felt Anxious

For most of the month preceding the festival, it looked as if the event would never take place. Under intense pressure from police, conservatives, and the Catholic Archdiocese, virtually every county in the area passed laws prohibiting or severely restricting rock festivals. A site in Enumclaw, 30 miles southeast of Seattle in King County, was offered and then withdrawn, and producer John Chambless scrambled to find an alternative.

He ended up with a strange locale: the Rainier Hereford Ranch, a stretch of dry grassland dimpled with miniature hillocks (left behind as some glacial prank) near Tenino, south of Olympia.

The Tenino Chamber of Commerce and several adjacent property owners obtained an injunction blocking a Thurston County permit, but a sympathetic judge required the plaintiffs to post a $25,000 bond against the festival's anticipated losses. They couldn't, and at the last possible second the festival was cleared for takeoff.

An estimated 25,000 people attended over three days, but the festival still lost money.


Walt Crowley, Rites of Passage: A Memoir of the Sixties in Seattle (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1995), 155-156.

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