Monday, June 28, 2010

Reconnecting with Kickapoo

When the Heyworth Rock Festival went down over Memorial Day Weekend, 1970 in central Illinois, REO Speedwagon was a local bar band, Ted Nugent was a member of up and coming group Amboy Dukes and Irving Azoff was a fledgling collegiate music promoter from nearby Champaign. This weekend, at the same physical location, filmmaker R.C. Raycraft will recreate the magic of this mini-Woodstock with a July 3rd outdoor screening at dusk of his documentary Incident at Kickapoo Creek.

Under most circumstances, the 40th anniversary story lines would be a turnout that exceeded, four-fold, the expected weekend crowd of 15,000 spectators and a line-up that also encompassed Michael McDonald, Dan Fogelberg and a gaggle of Woodstock performers. But the crux of the documentary and companion 137-page coffee table book is actually the organizer of the event, 42-year-old farmer David Lewis. Over one very crazy weekend, he dodged local authorities trying to serve him with papers ordering a halt to the festival and decamped after it was over for the Bahamas with a teenage secretary and two sleeping bags full of cash.

At a time when counterculture currents were coursing through the United States, Lewis was a greedy embodiment of this nascent spirit, putting on a renegade festival that took with it a wife and 320-acre farm. He eventually relocated from the Bahamas to Canada, but never set foot again in central Illinois; adding to the surreal quality of this whole episode is the fact that Lewis was also a bail bondsman.

The three days at Heyworth were as hedonistic as Woodstock, with - per local Reverend Eddy Cunningham's recollections - "a naked lady wearing a raincoat who wanted to trade her baby for a tank of gas" and "sex orgies." TV industry veteran Raycraft spent a decade and a half laboring on the film and says he benefited greatly from the mountain of archival footage accumulated over that Memorial Day Weekend by those seeking to bring Lewis to justice.

[Incident at Kickapoo Creek.]

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