Vibes in the ‘Ville
By Anne Butler
It was the summer of love, fifty years ago, when a music festival drew 400,000 hippies to a rolling farm in upstate New York to hear the top musicians of the day. Now the popular August festival that was originally called Polos and Pearls, designed to extend shop hours into the cool of the evening even in the heat of summer, steps up the pace with a decidedly funky feel.
Renamed Vibes in the ‘Ville, this year’s event promises lots of fun as it celebrates the 50th anniversary of Woodstock on August 17 from 4 to 7 p.m. in downtown St. Francisville, with shop extended hours and specials, tram transports, plus live music and vendors in Parker Park. A special live tribute performance of Sounds of Woodstock will round out the reminiscing from 7 to 10 p.m .
Temple Design has created spectacular tie-dyed t-shirts, available in most shops, designed to encourage attendees, especially those old enough to remember the first Woodstock, to keep their clothes on! Shoppers have the opportunity to register for door prizes at each shop, and winners’ names will be pulled at Parker Park after 7 p.m.
That first Woodstock, on August 15-18, 1969, at Max Yasgur’s 600-acre dairy farm, proved to be a pivotal moment for popular music and the counterculture generation, marked by “a sense of social harmony, outstanding music, and bohemian behavior,” whatever that might be.
It was also marked by a few births and deaths (one overdose and one poor fan sleeping in a field and run over by a tractor), pouring rain and mud, nudity and traffic jams and wall-to-wall people, but oh, the music! Thirty-two top recording artists: Jimi Hendrix, Richie Havens and Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, Country Joe McDonald and Santana, John Sebastian, The Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Joe Cocker, Country Joe and the Fish, The Band, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Blood Sweat and Tears.
Even Roy Rogers was invited to close the festival with “Happy Trails,” but he declined, and a few groups like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones had other commitments.
They billed the original Woodstock as “An Aquarian Exposition—Three Days of Peace and Music.” Vibes in the ‘Ville will be a single afternoon and evening, with great bargains in all the unique boutique shops and co-ops in St. Francisville’s Historic District and outlying areas, great music in the park, and hopefully no nudity or births or deaths, but you never know… And as the sun dips below the horizon and fireflies flit in the cooling dusk, Roy Rogers will again decline to sing “Happy Trails,” so happy shoppers loaded down with bargain purchases can just hum it to themselves.
Located on US Highway 61 on the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge, LA, and Natchez, MS, the St. Francisville area is a year-round tourist destination. Severa; splendidly restored plantation homes are open for tours: The Cottage Plantation (weekends), Myrtles Plantation, Greenwood Plantation, plus Catalpa Plantation by reservation; Afton Villa Gardens is open in season. Particularly important to tourism in the area are its two significant state historic sites, Rosedown Plantation (a National Historic Landmark) and Oakley Plantation in the Audubon state site, which offer periodic living-history demonstrations to allow visitors to experience 19th-century plantation life and customs.
The nearby Tunica Hills region offers unmatched recreational activities in its unspoiled wilderness areas—hiking, biking and bicycle racing due to the challenging terrain, birding, photography, hunting. There are unique art galleries plus specialty and antiques shops, many in restored historic structures, and some nice restaurants throughout the St. Francisville area serving everything from ethnic cuisine to seafood and classic Louisiana favorites. For overnight stays, the area offers some of the state’s most popular Bed & Breakfasts, including historic plantations, lakeside clubhouses and beautiful townhouses in St. Francisville’s extensive National Register-listed historic district, and there are also modern motel accommodations for large bus groups.
For visitor information, call West Feliciana Tourist Commission and West Feliciana Historical Society at 225-6330 or 225-635-4224, or St. Francisville Main Street at 225-635-3873; online www.stfrancisvillefestivals.com, www.stfrancisville.net or www.stfrancisville.us (the events calendar gives dates and information on special activities).