Also see Michigan’s Woodstock: The Goose Lake Festival on Michigan in Pictures.
The headlines of the local newspaper read, “125,000 and Still Coming.” The reporter of the story wrote, “Goose Lake Park’s rock festival is no county fair, state fair or world’s fair. It’s a young people’s fair.”
Held in August 1970, the Goose Lake festival was similar to the more famous outdoor concert near Woodstock, New York, that took place a year earlier. Some reports said 200,000 people attended the three-day outdoor concert near Jackson, Michigan. The two dozen bands that played at Goose Lake included such big names as Chicago, Jethro Tull and Bob Seger.
But Goose Lake was not without controversy. Local residents opposed the festival, fearing the commotion that would result when thousands of young people gathered near their homes.
Despite the huge crowd of people, there were no reports of physical violence. A University of Michigan doctor, one of a dozen doctors at the festival providing free medical treatment, thought the absence of violence “was a credit to a generation.”
While there was no violence at Goose Lake, the popular use of illegal drugs, especially marijuana, was a concern for authorities. To avoid sparking a “riot,” the police only arrested drug users or dealers who were outside the park. After the concert, Governor William Milliken was outraged about drug use at Goose Lake. “Rock festivals are a great idea,” the governor said, “but without the drugs.” A doctor at the concert wondered if the reports of drug abuse “may have been exaggerated.” At the festival’s four hospital tents, 400 people were treated for an assortment of illnesses and injuries. But there were only a few drug overdose patients.
When the Goose Lake festival ended, local citizens expressed their thoughts about having hosted the biggest rock festival in Michigan history. Some complained of a lack of sleep because the music was so loud. One local resident found the concert “a nerve-racking deal,” while another said he would fight future rock festivals “to the last ditch.” Others disagreed. A Goose Lake farmer said all the noise and activity did not affect his cows who he said were “contented.” A gas station attendant said the station was unusually busy during the weekend, but things went “smoothly . . . we had no problems at all.”
To learn more about Michigan’s history, visit Seeking Michigan.
Here’s a video of crowd scenes at Goose Lake and check out this overflight: