The Pitch touched on it ever so lightly…
The year was 1974 and KanRocksas promoter Chris Fritz was about to unleash the unthinkable upon the unsuspecting city of Sedalia. The Ozark Music Festival. A three day rock fest a la Woodstock with a lineup that included the Eagles, Aerosmith, Lynryd Skynyrd, REO, Bob Seger, Ted Nugent, BTO and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (who headline the Crossroads tonight with Brewer & Shipley).
"The whole idea was we would get a maximum of 50,000 people for three days," Fritz told me for the Star a handful of years back. "And we probably sold about that many in advance and at the door."
Kinda like what had been hoped for @ tonight and Saturday’s Kanrocksas before 100 degree heat and Entercom and The Buzz declared war on the fest.
"I’m back," Fritz said this spring when Kansasrocksas was first announced. "Actually this will be bigger than the Ozark Music Festival when it’s all said and done."
Bigger in terms of the overall lineup, quality of venue, staging, production and modern accoutrements.
But definitely not bigger in terms of crowd size. No way it could be.
"Who knows how many people actually came," Fritz said of the OMF. "But the military flew over and spotted it on Saturday when it was really cooking and said there were 300,000 people."
The heat didn’t bother the freeloaders back then, since the vast majority of attendees stormed in for free.
"It was 104 degrees the whole time, and people were dropping like flies," Fritz told me. "And the place was like waist-high in garbage afterwards. All the fences were torn down, there was mud everywhere. They had to bring the prisoners from Jeff City in to clean it up afterwards so the grounds would be ready for the State Fair.
"The city ran out of food and water – they’d turn a fire hydrant on and nothing would come out. Ice was selling for $20 to $30 a bag. Hookers were going for $5 – there were hooker trailers there – the headline in the newspaper said `Sodom and Gomorrah.’ It was insane."
The extravaganza left in its wake five envelopes of news clippings in the Kansas City Star library. Five.
"No event in recent Missouri history has produced more emotion and near-hysteria in political circles," one Star editorial at the time read. "No one in his right mind in Jefferson City or elsewhere would intentionally authorize a repetition of the fair grounds disaster."
A fleet of golf carts Fritz brought in to ferry the artists were taken over by the crowd and destroyed.
"You know, we had like 40 of ’em, and all of a sudden there were none," Fritz told me. "They were using them like demolition cars – they lit them on fire."
Needless to say, Sedalia’s City Fathers were not happy.
"They wanted somebody’s hide," Fritz told me. "At 5 or 6 p.m. when the show ended, I had to leave because somebody said, `They have a lynch mob, and you’d better get out of town.’
"I was banned from the fair grounds, and the city council said I was banned from Sedalia. We were doing a motor show there 15 years later, and they go, `Chris Fritz can’t be on the property.’ And there were always people from Sedalia that would tell me, `Chris Fritz, he’s like this mythical guy, and if he ever came back to Sedalia, it’d be all over for him.’ One time in the early ’90s, I was standing there in my shorts, drinking a peanut butter shake and eating a Goober burger listening to these motorcycle guys tell me all this and going, `Uh huh, uh huh.’ I didn’t tell them who I was. It was just cooler to walk away and leave this enigma in their minds."
"If you asked the director of the fair then, he’d probably say, `Yes, he’s banned forever.’ Because he lost his job over all that," Willard told me . "But as far as I’m concerned, it’s lifted. There is no blacklist today."
All things considered, maybe it’s just as well. that Fritz’ Kanrocksas will only draw 25,000 or so participants in the staggering heat and the worst economic downturn in 30-plus years.
He likely won’t have to sneak out afterwards and chances are KCK won’t ban him. Afterall, he does run the nearby Sandstone. And with luck, Kansas Speedway head dude Pat Warren won’t lose his job over the deal.
What’s more there’s zero chance the Speedway will get overrun by ticketless party types, Fritz says.
"We had only sold 35,000 to 40,000 tickets at the Ozark Music Fest before the first day when it became free," Fritz says. "But this isn’t a fairgrounds with 14 year-old kids working security. If you don’t have a ticket, you aren’t getting in."
Let the party begin…
Oh yeah, be sure and check out David Mann’s amazing photos from the fest.