Arts & Culture

The Wadena Rock Festival turns 50 this month

Little Richard, Everly Brothers, REO Speedwagon, the Guess Who ...

The Wadena Rock Festival, July 31-Aug. 2, 1970. (The Gazette)
The Wadena Rock Festival, July 31-Aug. 2, 1970. (The Gazette)

I’m a little sentimental this month, and not just because I haven’t seen so many friends and co-workers (who also are friends) since mid-March.

July 31 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Wadena Rock Festival, an event that drew perhaps 40,000 people to a farm 2 miles west of the small northeast Iowa town of Wadena.

It was roughly 10 miles from my grandma’s house. I was 12. Thus, I couldn’t attend despite a desire to do so.

Maybe my parents were afraid I’d get strung out on LSD. I can happily say that has yet to happen to me, and I’m starting to feel confident it never will.

Among the acts that played at Wadena were Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees Albert King, Little Richard, Leon Russell, the Everly Brothers, and (according to some sources, but I’m not sure) Joan Baez. The Guess Who were there, and Johnny Winter and REO Speedwagon and the Chambers Brothers and the Flying Burrito Brothers and the Youngbloods, and a lot of acts that don’t ring bells for the vast majority of us.

It was quite a collection of rock, blues and folk over three days. Here's a video (sans audio) look at it.



I was a Guess Who fan as a kid, bought all of their singles. They were Canadians who put out a song called “American Woman” that you still hear 50 years later.

Do you think people in the year 2070 will still be listening to songs from 2020? Or 1970?

If you went to Wadena, send me a note at I’ll be jealous.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.