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Celebration of Life festival looks back on its 50th anniversary

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In the scorching summer heat of South Louisiana in June of 1971, more than 60,000 music fans and hippies alike camped out along a 700-acre soybean plantation in McCrea.

Each were on a mission to hear from the top acts in the world of music.

"It was chaotic," said Bob Morgan who was there documenting it.

"This was supposed to be an eight day festival. They had some real top entertainers that were booked to come down."

More than 70 big-name acts were on schedule to perform. This includes artists like B.B. King, Ike and Tina Turner, and the Beach Boys.

The all-star lineup drew people from across the country, and faced local and legal opposition.

"The police jury tried to get it canceled. The National Guard tried to cancel it, but the promoters said there were already 50 to 60 thousand people trying to get in so they went ahead with it."

The Woodstock-like festival commenced despite local pushback. It was known as the"Celebration of Life."

Promoters also promised circus animals, carnival rides, and workshops, but it didn't turn out as planned.

"I wasn't really interested in the music, I was more interested in the spectacle. In that regard, I got my money's worth."

The hoards of crowds quickly became overwhelming. Pervasive drug use, violence, and the raging Atchafalaya river brought about a number of deaths.

There was no where to accommodate fans, the heat was unbearable, mosquitoes swarmed, and the profuse skinny dipping ultimately shut it down.

Many headliners cancelled, and the festival only lasted 3 days.

"There was no fresh water, no food, and there was one little store in McCrea. It was sold out early."

But for those who survived the ordeal, Morgan says left with unforgettable memories of a unique experience.


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