Posted by: winteridge | July 20, 2010

Tug-Fest: Rock Fest on The Tug

Sunset of the Tug Hill RockFest

On a beautiful morning last weekend I sat atop the hill where the almost-famous Amby Williams Rock Festival was almost held.   One could almost picture 400,000 screaming rock fans filling the valley below, making Woodstock look like a church gathering in comparison.  Another almost-moment in the history of Tug Hill that few know about today.  Almost.

When I was growing up, Ambrose (Amby) Williams was one of our most colorful neighbors.  A confirmed bachelor with curly white hair and a santa beard, he farmed about 1200 acres with 4 or 5 farms, mostly on the Boshart Road, with countless cows, horses, sheep, goats, chickens, dogs, and hogs.  He believed in free-range farming, and his hogs, in groups of 10-30, might be found up to 20 miles from home.  Amby hired a revolving staff of farm help, usually older men, and practiced many farming methods that were considered radical for his time.  We often saw him driving the back roads in his old car, trailed by a half-dozen of his assorted dogs.  Our Dad often volunteered our services to help Amby with harvesting or planting potatoes, or threshing oats.

Early in the 1970’s, Amby was sought out by a promoter who decided that his farm was the perfect site for a Woodstock-type music festival.  There was plenty of land for privacy, probably 1200-1300 acres, and a large hill with a natural amphitheater for the fest.  Amby was getting older, considering giving up farming, and the promoter’s offer sounded inviting.  Of course, Amby knew nothing about Woodstock or Rock’n’Roll, and was not impressed by plans for his land, but the price was good, so he signed on.

After the Woodstock festival gained world renown not long before, the exciting prospect of something similar on remote Tug Hill was, of course, the talk of the county.  Neighbors cringed at the possibility of 100,000 visitors wandering over their roads and croplands, while others looked forward to making some money in any way they could.  I remember my Dad was ready to defend his property with his Ithaca double-12.

As this non-event took place in 1970, and a lot of years have passed since then, I turn to my copy of “Town of Harrisburg – A History” by Madelene Mosher Bernat, for details of the historic Rock Music Festival.  The promoter was Bud Filippo, of Filippo Festivals, who envisioned at least 100,000 fans, and up to 400,000, with a weekend of 12 hours of continuous music each day.  He expected to employ 200-300 local people to control free parking, free camping, concessions, and traffic.  He anticipated profit of about $1,000,000, a tidy sum in 1970.  “The theme of this back-to-nature festival would be music, love, and harmony.  The entire environmental concept will be structured for tranquility and enjoyment.”  Sounded good.  Amby, known as a shrewd horse trader in his own right, admitted to being overwhelmed by these promoters.  Immediately after the fest was announced, the “Yippies” reported in, demanding free tickets for Negroes and poor people, and a share of profits for the Chicago Seven, the Black Panthers, and for Dr Timothy Leary.

Fortunately, though the deal with poor Amby was set, the promoters had no contract with local town and county government officials.  Reminded of Woodstock, they had concerns about traffic on the country roads, lack of medical facilities, a shortage of police and mutual aid for such a crowd, damage to neighboring properties (which included my father’s farm), lack of food, water, toilet facilities, and other unknown problems.  Filippo met with local leaders to attempt to resolve the many concerns, but met with strong opposition.  For a Town population of 423 people, the fest could prove very costly.  Permission was not given.  Worldwide Fame was avoided.

Amby, belatedly distressed about how the fest might affect him and his neighbors, died not long after.  His farms were sold to a group of developers and much of the land partitioned for camping lots.  Much of the farm is now included in the Maple Ridge Wind Farm.  Thus ended the Tug Hill Rock Music Festival before a tune was played.

Former home of Amby Williams on The Tug.



  1. […] on the rolling pastures of Tug Hill, New York? I guess it makes almost as much sense as Bethel. My dad wrote about it, […]

  2. And it didn’t happen. Thank goodness for almost favors.

  3. I’m barely ten years too old to have participated in Woodstock, though I would have been a candidate if I had been that much younger. Thankfully this awful event did not take place, but it’s nice to know what might have been. I’ve only been up here since 1996 so I wouldn’t have known about it. I’m not surprised that local governments didn’t welcome it.

  4. That is a great tip particularly to those fresh to the
    blogosphere. Short but very precise info… Thanks for sharing this one.
    A must read post!

  5. What is going on in here? Where all this post comes from?

    • WordPress is going on!

  6. Fantastic post.

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