Atlanta Pop Festival 47th Anniversary
47 years ago on July 3rd music history was made in Middle Georgia. The second Atlanta International Pop Festival was a rock festival held in a soybean field adjacent to the Middle Georgia Raceway in Byron, Georgia, from July 3–5, 1970, although it did not finish until near dawn on the 6th. It was the only successor to the first Atlanta Pop Festival, which had been held the previous summer near Hampton, Georgia. You've heard about the legendary artists that graced the stage at the Byron Music Festival, but there are lots of interesting facts about this historic event may locals don't know about.
If you weren't one of the 200,000+ in attendance, here's a YouTube video from Thaddeus McGrath that highlights the largest outdoor gathering in Georgia history.
The crowd estimates have ranged from 200,000 to 600,000. I-75 was backed up for miles in both directions. Nearby wooded areas became campgrounds. And places like the lake at Vinson Valley and the Echeconnee Creek provided some relief from the 100 degree temperatures. Vastly outnumbered, the only thing law enforcement could do about widespread nudity and drug use was just look the other way.
Even at 1970 prices, $14.00 for 30 acts over 3 days was a bargain. Still there were thousands of music lovers outside the gates demanding that Byron become a free festival, like Woodstock. So promoters and security personnel gave in and opened the gates about an hour into the opening act’s first set.
Lester Maddox, Georgia’s colorful governor, had tried repeatedly to prevent the festival from taking place. With the help of the state legislature, restrictions were eventually adopted to make it difficult to organize another festival of this size, so a third Atlanta Pop Festival never happened.
The concert poster was designed by artist Lance Bragg and the psychedelic motif featured on the official concert poster was used for both Atlanta festivals, as well as the Texas Pop Festival, all promoted by the legendary Alex Cooley. And just a bit of 47 year old trivia – Captain Beefhart, Taos, Ravi Shankar, Ginger Baker’s Air Force and Jethro Tull are all listed on the poster, but were all no-shows at the festival.
A ceremony was held over 42 years after the festival to unveil and dedicate an official historic marker where the festival happened. This project was the work of festival site landowner Tim Thornton, along with the Georgia Historical Society, the Byron Area Historical Society, the Georgia Allman Brothers Band Association and the Allman Brothers Museum at the Big House.