Jamboree in the Hills: A Little Woodstock?
I was so excited when I heard the announcement that Bordas & Bordas was sponsoring Jamboree in the Hills once again. Jamboree has become such an important event for many of my family, friends and for this area in general that I can't help but wish for its continued success. With my firm's announcement, the memories of my first Jamboree in the Hills began to stir in my mind.
I have to be honest and admit that rock music has always been the music of my soul. Throughout my life it has been the music that spoke to me, inspired me, moved me and made me want to dance. As a matter of fact, as I sit here writing this blog, I can hear a base guitar, joined by the lead guitar, then the drums and finally Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane singing "White Rabbit" in my mind. The fact that I have chosen this song and group probably gave my age away immediately.
Yes, I am from the Woodstock generation, the original Woodstock that is. For those of you who don't know, Woodstock was the music festival that drew an unexpected attendance of approximately 500,000 young people on Max Yasgur's dairy farm in the small town of Bethel, New York in August of 1969. It was such a pivotal time in our country's history. The young people in the country, my generation, were not very happy with the status quo and some actually set out to change it, or had the audacity to think they could change it. Our young men were still living under the threat of the draft and a very unpopular Vietnam War was escalating by the day. A lot of the guys I knew and grew up with had already been drafted to fight in that war and unfortunately, a lot of those brave young men did not come home alive. Many of us began to believe we should not have been involved in the Vietnam conflict in the first place. Trying to get the leaders of our
country to agree was causing a lot of conflict. Unrest, constant sometimes-violent protests, and forever-long social justice debates were as synonymous with my generation as our slogan of "Peace and Love."
In the summer of 1969, I graduated from high school and was chomping at the bit to begin experiencing some of that peace, love and freedom that my generation stood for. I remember lying stretched out on the living room floor in front of the television, watching the news as they showed clips of the now famous music and art festival called Woodstock. As I watched the clips shown on the news, I wanted nothing more than to be in the crowd. The bands in the lineup included many of my favorites, like Creedence Clearwater Revival, Sly & the Family Stone, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Joan Baez, Santana, Canned Heat, and Grateful Dead; it was a downright rock and roll fantasy come true!
I was 17 years old and it seemed like the perfect weekend road trip. But rolling around on the hillside of Max Yasgur's farm with a bunch of hippy freaks for a few days was more of a fantasy than a reality. Instead, I was more apt to take a family vacation with my parents riding down through the hills of West Virginia, which is exactly what I did that summer.
Riding in the car with my parents reminded me of one thing that I couldn't stand, country music. I did not like country music because it was the music that my mom and dad listened to. Instead of listening to the rock stations I loved, I was forced to listen to their country music stations and suffer in silence. Of course we didn't have iPods back then and although I did have a small transistor radio, as most kids did, it never occurred to me to use earphones.
So when the first Jamboree in the Hills was held back in 1977, I didn't give it as much as a passing thought. As a matter of fact, the very first memory I have of Jamboree in the Hills occurred in the emergency room at the Ohio Valley Hospital on one very hot and muggy July afternoon in 1979. I remember there were dozens of people coming in from Jamboree in the Hills suffering from heat exhaustion. My thoughts at that time were, "Why in the world would anybody want to sit or stand in an open field, on a humid afternoon, listening to country music?" This probably seems comical coming from the woman who thought it would be perfectly divine to roll around on a muddy hillside listening to rock music in 1969!
During the 80s and 90s, the wide divide between rock music and country music began to narrow and there were even a few artists that I was able to enjoy, like The Eagles, Alabama, The Charlie Daniels Band, Willie Nelson and even Dolly Parton. As the music itself began to evolve, so did my feelings about country music. There were some country songs that I actually did like, along with some fun line dances that you could do without needing a dance partner. Jamboree in the Hills was steadily gaining popularity and it was hard to find anybody who didn't enjoy it. Eventually I came around to wanting to go, not so much for the music, but just to experience the fun. So in 1997, when a friend of mine asked me to join her and offered me a free ticket for the Saturday show, I couldn't refuse. I would finally have a chance to experience this exalted event that was now nicknamed "Jambo."
We got up very early on Saturday morning to prepare for the drive to Morristown, Ohio. Fortunately for us, her daughter and a few of her daughter's friends had gotten there earlier for the gate opening to claim a good spot for us on the hillside. I learned later on that they refer to this event as the ever so famous "Redneck Run." I've watched it several times on YouTube videos and it is
something to behold; I'm really not sorry that I missed that part. It was such a beautiful sunny morning as we sat, sipped our drinks and watched others arrive to find their area on the hillside. There was such a fantastic party atmosphere, everybody was there to have a good time.
As the day progressed and the entertainers took the stage, a lot of people were lavishly enjoying their favorite refreshments and the happiness of the crowd increased. Everyone was just there to have a good time and listen to the music. Thinking back to it, I honestly didn't meet a person there who wasn't friendly.
It has been quite a few years since I have actually gone to Jambo, but I have family and friends who attend it yearly and stay at one of the campsites for the entire weekend. Everyone insists that staying in the camp area is a special adventure in and of itself. Nowadays, I enjoy watching it on the television from my recliner in my air conditioned home. Not as much fun, I know, but when they scan over the hill and show the crowd, I can appreciate how much fun they are having. If you have never experienced summer's biggest party, I suggest you do. There is still time to purchase tickets and from what I hear there is an excellent lineup this year!
Although I enjoy reminiscing about my first Jamboree in the Hills experience, it never did make up for missing Woodstock in 1969! I feel it's safe to compare Jamboree in the Hills as a smaller, more mature and definitely more organized version of Woodstock with one major difference, country music, but I can rock with that.