Strawberry Fields (Canadian festival)

Last updated
Strawberry Fields
Genre Rock music,
DatesAugust 7-August 10, 1970
Location(s) Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada
Founded byJohn Brower
Attendance~75,000 (est.)

The Strawberry Fields Festival was a rock music festival held at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (formerly Mosport Park) in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada, about 100 kilometers east of Toronto, between August 7 and the early morning hours of August 10, 1970. Although accounts vary, the audience has been estimated at between 75,000 and 100,000 people. [1] A three-day ticket for the festival sold for $15.00.

Rock music is a broad genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the early 1950s, and developed into a range of different styles in the 1960s and later, particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, a style which drew heavily from the genres of blues, rhythm and blues, and from country music. Rock music also drew strongly from a number of other genres such as electric blues and folk, and incorporated influences from jazz, classical and other musical styles. Musically, rock has centered on the electric guitar, usually as part of a rock group with electric bass, drums, and one or more singers. Usually, rock is song-based music usually with a 4/4 time signature using a verse–chorus form, but the genre has become extremely diverse. Like pop music, lyrics often stress romantic love but also address a wide variety of other themes that are frequently social or political.

Canadian Tire Motorsport Park Motorsport track in Canada

Canadian Tire Motorsport Park is a multi-track motorsport venue located north of Bowmanville, in Ontario, Canada. The facility features a 2.459-mile (3.957 km), 10-turn road course; a 2.9 km advance driver and race driver training facility with a quarter-mile skid pad and a 1.5 km kart track. The name "Mosport" is a portmanteau of Motor Sport, came from the enterprise formed to build the track; it is pronounced as the two words actually sound, "Mo-Sport".

Toronto Provincial capital city in Ontario, Canada

Toronto is the provincial capital of Ontario and the most populous city in Canada, with a population of 2,731,571 in 2016. Current to 2016, the Toronto census metropolitan area (CMA), of which the majority is within the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), held a population of 5,928,040, making it Canada's most populous CMA. The city is the anchor of the Golden Horseshoe, an urban agglomeration of 9,245,438 people surrounding the western end of Lake Ontario. Toronto is an international centre of business, finance, arts, and culture, and is recognized as one of the most multicultural and cosmopolitan cities in the world.



Connection to Toronto Peace Festival

John Brower along with John Lennon and Yoko Ono had originally planned to host the "Toronto Peace Festival" at Mosport Park in July 1970 but they ran into numerous roadblocks and their plans were dashed when their application for the necessary permits were denied. In de-classified documents released in 2007 it was revealed in an RCMP report dated December 30, 1969, that the Canadian security service began spying on ex-Beatle John and Yoko after they announced their plans for the Peace Festival. [2]

John Lennon English singer and songwriter, founding member of the Beatles

John Winston Ono Lennon was an English singer, songwriter and peace activist who gained worldwide fame as the rhythm guitarist for the Beatles. His songwriting partnership with Paul McCartney remains the most successful in history. In 1969, he started the Plastic Ono Band with his second wife, Yoko Ono. After the Beatles disbanded in 1970, Lennon continued as a solo artist and as a collaborator of Ono's music.

Yoko Ono Japanese artist, author, and peace activist

Yoko Ono is a Japanese-American multimedia artist, singer, songwriter and peace activist. Her work also encompasses performance art, which she performs in both English and Japanese and filmmaking. She is known for being the wife of English singer-songwriter John Lennon of the Beatles from 1969 until his murder in 1980.

Selection of the venue and promotion

Without John and Yoko, Brower moved forward with plans to host a festival at Shediac, near Moncton, New Brunswick, named the "Strawberry Fields Festival". [3] Again, local politicians intervened and revoked various permits so Brower shifted the location back to Mosport Park in Ontario only this time he thinly disguised the event as a championship motorcycle race featuring "some contemporary entertainment". [4] The festival was advertised in Canada as the "First Annual Strawberry Cup Trophy Race". To avoid public and political scrutiny, the musical entertainment aspect of the event was downplayed in advertisements and the festival was not promoted heavily in Canada. [5]

Moncton City in New Brunswick, Canada

Moncton is the largest city in the Canadian province of New Brunswick. Situated in the Petitcodiac River Valley, Moncton lies at the geographic centre of the Maritime Provinces. The city has earned the nickname "Hub City" due to its central inland location in the region and its history as a railway and land transportation hub for the Maritimes.

When it was discovered that the primary focus of the event was not motorcycle racing but instead a rock music festival, the Attorney General of Ontario, Arthur Wishart, filed for an injunction to stop the festival from taking place citing health and public safety concerns. On August 6, with only hours to go before the opening act was scheduled to take the stage, Supreme Court Justice D. A. Keith refused to grant the injunction and the festival was allowed to proceed. [6]

Unlike in Canada, the "Strawberry Fields Festival" was promoted heavily in the U.S. as a three-day rock music festival with the slogan, "Love, Sun and Sound". As a result, a large percentage of the attendees were from the American northeast. Others travelled from as far away as California and Florida. In the end, the sanctioning body for the racing series withdrew its drivers from the event so an actual race never occurred although an obligatory lap by a few motorcyclists did occur in order to comply with the local ordinance. [7]

Border troubles

Several thousand more young American music fans were turned back at the Canada–US border by Canadian border agents. The fans were unable to provide proof they had sufficient funds to look after themselves while visiting Canada or produce adequate identification. Forty US dollars were required to be shown to officials (at the Thousand Islands Bridge crossing checkpoint). If one could not show cash they were told they could not enter Canada. Cash was sometimes borrowed from person to person at the lineup. One person turned away at the Canadian border crossing at Prescott, Ontario, drowned while attempting to swim into Canada across the St. Lawrence River near Watertown, New York. Several arrests related to the attempted importation of narcotics and banned substances were made. [8]

Canada–United States border International border between Canada and the USA

The Canada–United States border, officially known as the International Boundary, is the longest international border in the world between two countries. It is shared between Canada and the United States, the second- and fourth- largest countries by area, respectively. The terrestrial boundary is 5,525 miles (8,892 km) long, of which 1,538 miles (2,475 km) is Canada's border with Alaska. Eight Canadian provinces and territories, and thirteen U.S. states are located along the border.

Prescott, Ontario Town in Ontario, Canada

Prescott, Ontario is a small town on the north shore of the Saint Lawrence River in the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville, Canada. In 2016, the town had a population of 3965. The Ogdensburg–Prescott International Bridge, 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) east of Prescott at Johnstown, connects the town with Ogdensburg, New York. The town is about an hour from both Ottawa and Kingston.

Watertown (city), New York City in New York, United States

Watertown is a city in the U.S. state of New York and the county seat of Jefferson County. It is situated approximately 25 miles (40 km) south of the Thousand Islands, and only about 5 miles (8.0 km) east of Lake Ontario, at the point where the Black River empties into it. It also lies 180 miles (290 km) northwest of Albany, the state capital and 328 miles (530 km) northwest of New York City. As of the 2010 census, it had a population of 27,023, an increase of 1.2% since 2000. The U.S. Army post Fort Drum is near the city.

The park

Mosport is a 500-acre (2.0 km2) auto racing venue. Strawberry Fields was the first of three major music festivals held at Mosport Park Raceway, between 1970 and 1980. The other two were Canada Jam held August 26, 1978 and the punk and new wave themed Heatwave Festival held August 23, 1980.


Strawberry Festival acts included (not in order of appearance):

Led Zeppelin and Leonard Cohen were listed on the bill but did not appear. [9] The festival concluded at 5:30 am on Monday morning, August 10 with a performance by Woodstock alumni Sly & the Family Stone, playing, "I Wanna Take You Higher", as the sun came up. Other performers who also appeared at the 1969 Woodstock Festival in Bethel, New York included Melanie, Ten Years After and Mountain. Chip Monck, who designed the stage lighting for Woodstock and became the impromptu emcee of that event, had planned to emcee Strawberry Fields, but the various changes in dates and venues pushed the festival into August and Monck was bound to honour a previous commitment to work the Rolling Stones European tour at that time.

See also

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  1. Yorke, Ritchie (22 August 1970), "Brower Promotes Strawberry Field Pop Fest Into Winner", Billboard published by Nielsen Business Media, Inc.., New York, pp. 80, 82
  2. "RCMP spied on Lennon, Ono: declassified files". CBC News. July 23, 2007.
  3. Ken Kelley, Why Did New Brunswick Pull The Plug On An Epic Rock Concert In August 1970?, Music Nerd, August 7, 2016
  4. Yorke, Ritchie (22 August 1970), "Brower Promotes Strawberry Field Pop Fest Into Winner", Billboard published by Nielsen Business Media, Inc.., New York, pp. 80, 82
  5. "LSD Sold Openly at Festival", The Toronto Star published by Torstar Media, Inc.., Toronto, pp. 1, 10, August 7, 1970
  6. "Court Injunction Refused", The Toronto Star published by Torstar Media, Inc.., Toronto, pp. 1, 10, August 7, 1970
  7. "LSD Sold Openly at Festival", The Toronto Star published by Torstar Media, Inc.., Toronto, pp. 1, 10, August 7, 1970
  8. "LSD Sold Openly at Festival", The Toronto Star published by Torstar Media, Inc.., Toronto, pp. 1, 10, August 7, 1970