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Summer of Love Valley

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Love Valley, NC, a small Iredell County town of only about 90 people, may seem an unlikely place for a rock concert. It was built in the 1950s by Andy Barker as an authentic Western town. Barker became the town’s second mayor (the first was his father J.A.) after it was incorporated in 1963 and held that office until his death two years ago.

In 1970, Barker sponsored a rock festival as a means of raising funds to provide a water and sewer system for the town. It was reported that "none of the superstars of the rock world" had been announced for the festival, but that several smaller but well-known performers had signed, including the Allman Brothers Band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Wet Willie, Johnny Jenkins, and Tony Joe White.

As N&O writer Bob Lynch described, the outside world made quite an impression on the quaint cowboy town.

An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 long-haired and bearded "music lovers" have camped in this community of 75 population for an outdoor festival which lasts through Sunday -- and more were pouring in Friday night.

Love Valley itself has the appearance of a large refugee camp. Young men and women with bedrolls; mattresses, cooking utensils and other gear stroll the main street. This dirt track, watered to settle the dust, is pressed by thousands of bare or sandled feet and has the appearance of a 19th Century cow town after a beef herd had passed through.

Separate, gang showers have been set up for men and women, but the men’s showers often have as many women bathers as the women’s showers, if not more.

Reporters observed men and women bathing together. It was not uncommon Friday to see men and women bathing nude within the full view of others gathered here to hear music and enjoy relief from the frustrations of civilization.

Some used garden hoses to provide water for mutual shower baths.

Young women removing all their clothing to change into other garments could be seen in all parts of the camping areas.

There are two lakes at Love Valley where large groups of young men and girls, women and children, were swimming nude.

Such a group was swimming in one of the lakes Friday afternoon. Oldtimers sat on the banks of the lake fishing, occasionally casting glances at the nudists splashing around in the old fishing hole. An elderly resident of Mooresville remarked, "I drove down just to see what was going on." He fished a while, then added, "You certainly see all types of people up here. But they are all orderly. I saw just one person who was a little bit tight -- but he was not out of the way...."

Mayor Barker said they had no way of keeping an accurate count of the crowd. He said many youths who couldn’t afford to buy tickets slipped in, "but we’re not worried about that. This is for the young people and we like young people." The News & Observer 7/18/1970

It turned out to be a pretty rough weekend, with one death, one birth, a shooting, a couple of poisonous snake bites, several drug overdoses and 175 under arrest in two counties. It was estimated that 75,000 had attended the weekend festival, some paying the full $5 admission price, but many using counterfeit tickets.

License plates indicated festival fans came from all across the nation, including such distant points as South Dakota, Oregon and California.

Hard rock music, hard narcotics, nudity, dust and overcrowded conditions made up the daily routine ....

Residents of this foothills area viewed the festival with its long-haired followers with mixed emotion.

One couple, living about a mile from the arena, told a newsman Sunday morning after church services, that they were surprised by the event.

"We had heard how the hippies raided vegetable gardens, slaughtered livestock and so on in other states. We haven’t had one thing bothered by these people."

Several other valley residents shared this view.

They said the young people were "well-behaved." Others said the youths were "not what we expected" or "were peaceable and courteous."

But some, however, expressed resentment toward hippies and Mayor Barker for bringing the multitudes into the valley. One elder said, "we don’t like it at all." The News & Observer 7/20/1970

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