By Raymond L. Daye, Co-Editor
It was called a “Celebration of Life,” but it is remembered by most for its mud, mosquitoes, violence and death.
The music festival between a levee and the Atchafalaya River in the Pointe Coupee community of McCrea was supposed to be an 8-day “Louisiana Woodstock” or the “Woodstock of the South.” It was supposed to have 70-plus national and international acts. Instead, only 10 acts showed up, four people died, over 100 people were arrested for illegal drugs and the festival shut down after only three days in June 1971.
Estimates of the failed festival’s attendance range from 60,000 to 150,000. It was marred by police brutality and a violent motorcycle gang that acted as “security” for the festival.
A 33-minute documentary on the festival, entitled, “McCrea 1971: Louisiana’s Forgotten Rock Festival,” will be shown at The Fox Theater in Marksville on Sept. 4. It is part of a double-feature which also includes the documentary “Louisiana During WWII.”
The event starts at 7 p.m. It will also include a question and answer session with the filmmakers and an after-party at Bailey’s on the Square. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased in advance at the Marksville Chamber of Commerce office or by calling 253-8105 or 359-2906. Seating is limited and advance purchase of tickets is recommended.
The Journal is asking readers who attended the McCrea festival to submit photos and/or brief comments about their recollections of that event. Email name, town, phone number and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org Attn: McCrea fest; text (318) 305-8170; or post your comments online at avoyellestoday.com or tag us on our facebook page “avoyellestoday.”
The documentary was produced by Southeast Louisiana University students Nick Brilleaux and Scott Caro. The filmmakers recently won an Emmy in the Photography category after receiving an Emmy-quality rating for content, creativity and execution.
The other feature of the night was produced by Dr. Jerry Sanson, interim chair of the Department of History and Political Science at LSU-Alexandria, and Dr. William Robison, head of the Southeastern History and Political Science Department. That film examines Louisiana’s many contributions in winning World War II and the effects of the war on the state.
Caro said his documentary “deals with some of the legal trouble the festival promoters dealt with in organizing a large event in such a remote and socially conservative locale. It also documents the experiences of people who worked the festival, who attended and who lived nearby. At the root of most failures was a lack of cooperation between festival organizers and local governments and police forces. That was the case for the Celebration of Life.”
The festival is described as a “tragic, yet fascinating story” by Southeastern Channel General Manager Rick Settoon. The showing of the documentaries is being presented by The Fox Theater, Bailey’s on the Square and the Marksville Courthouse Square Merchants. All proceeds go to support The Fox Theater.
“We’re excited to have the opportunity to bring an event like this to the city,” Fox Theater President Lexie Leger said. “It’s an intriguing topic and we invite everyone to come out and learn more about this sometimes forgotten piece of our parish’s history.”
For more information about the film, visit www.mccrea1971.com. For more details about the event, visit the Avoyelles Arts Council’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ avoyelles.artscouncil.