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The Woodstock That Wasn't - Strawberry Fields


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Rock legend Robert Plant, formerly of the ultra-influential band Led Zeppelin, will play his first show in New Brunswick this summer, bringing a story that began almost 50 years ago to a close.

Plant and Zeppelin, then some of the biggest names in rock music, were booked to play the Strawberry Fields International Music Festival in Shediac, N.B. back in 1970 – an event which never came to fruition.

“This could have been New Brunswick’s Woodstock moment,” music enthusiast and writer Ken Kelley told CTV News Atlantic.

The event was planned to run from Aug. 7-10, 1970, with organizers bringing several of the world’s biggest bands to a small farm in Atlantic Canada.

“The organizer, John Brower, told me that he had half a million dollars and went shopping for bands after he got the clearance for the show to happen in Shediac,” Kelley said.

That amount – just shy of US$3.5 million today – let Brower build a lineup featuring many of the day’s biggest groups.

Besides Led Zeppelin, the bill featured other major names like Alice Cooper, Grand Funk Railroad and Leonard Cohen.

But it wasn’t meant to be.

With an estimated attendance of around 60,000, the province began to worry it was getting too big for the town, casting wary eyes toward the stories of drugs and debauchery that came out following the 1969 Woodstock concert.

Suddenly, despite co-operating with organizers for almost a year, New Brunswick’s provincial government decided that the province wasn’t the place for that sort of event.

“We’re not sure if [Premier Louis] Robichaud’s government really felt this way, or were afraid of the backlash,” University of New Brunswick history professor Greg Marquis explained.

Facing an upcoming election, Robichaud pulled the organizer’s permits, killing the event just a couple months before it was set to happen.

“So that’s the ultimate historical question,” Marquis said. “Did the government genuinely fear these hippies, or did they fear the public wrath?”

Though the festival was a bust in New Brunswick, promoters would re-tool and move to Ontario.

The event went under the new guise of the “First Annual Strawberry Cup Trophy Race,” promoting the event as a motorcycle championship race that just happened to have a music festival for entertainment.

But Maritimers still came out on top, as Led Zeppelin didn’t end up playing in Ontario either.

Moncton and Shediac later went on to cement a reputation in the music world by playing host to several large outdoor festivals. The Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival where Plant will play later this year will be held in Fredericton.




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