Talk about serendipitous good fortune. Or maybe the outpoured blessing of the rock ’n’ roll gods.
When a van carrying five college-age guys from Columbus finally made it to the gate of a rural music festival near a New York state dairy farm in 1969, officials read the vehicle’s markings: “Flatrock Vending Company.”
Assuming it carried some of the food for the masses, authorities waved right in Hutch Schumaker’s borrowed family company van — many hours ahead of anyone else at what would become one of contemporary music’s historic events.
“We didn’t exactly know what we were going to,” Schumacher said. “But we soon realized the magnitude of it was unreal.”
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Such was the impact of Woodstock, which attracted some 400,000 people in Bethel, New York, over four days of top-name pop, rock and folk acts amid the civil rights and anti-war movements.
Schumacher and hometown friends Jesse Brand and Jeff Rhoades, who attended with him (along with Jacks Collingsworth and B.J. Sears), are chairing the Sixties-themed Oct. 22 unCommon Cause arts fundraiser with current pal Warren Ward, who attended Woodstock with his wife-to-be, Janet. Funds from The Commons bash support a wide variety of programs of the nonprofit Columbus Area Arts Council.
Indianapolis band Living Proof will provide tunes to turn, turn, turn back the clock.
Already, Geri Handley, the arts council’s marketing manager, reported that 24 of the planned 36 tables are booked — signs that the gathering that includes both a silent and public auction could be en route to its second straight sellout.
The event’s focus is “The ’60s Experience: From Mods to Motown, Buzz Cuts to Bellbottoms.”
It follows last year’s event that raised a record $118,000. Organizers acknowledge that topping that total would be, well, far out, man.
“Especially with what happened with (a rained-out) Rock the Park (concert losing money), local arts support may be more critical than ever,” Schumaker said.
Actually, Schumaker recalls rain somewhat reigning at Woodstock, turning much of the audience’s hillside into a giant mudbog.
“It was a big pigsty,” Schumacher said. “But there weren’t too many people in any real shape to worry about it.”
He and his friends had stopped at what was billed as “the world’s largest liquor store” on the way to the event. What got their attention? Numerous store employees maneuvering forklifts filled with skids of beer and more.
Schumacher mentioned that neither he nor any in the group that made the trip could be considered rebels or hippies.
“I didn’t have any peace signs around my neck or on my shirt,” Schumacher said. “I was only a hippie of convenience. If there were hot-looking girls around who were hippies, well, then, OK, I was a hippie.”
Schumacher’s 17-year-old son today is as heavily into The Beatles and The Rolling Stones as Schumacher himself ever was. But those acts were not a part of the festival. Instead, the lineup included Jimi Hendrix, The Who, The Band, Janis Joplin, Johnny Winter, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Jefferson Airplane, Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie and many others.
“Blood, Sweat and Tears were great, but Jefferson Airplane was my favorite,” Ward said.
Rhoades, who ended up helping in the festival medic tent amid an environment where kindness spilled in all directions, remembers highlights such as Hendrix’s now-legendary “Star Spangled Banner” and Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant.”
Brand remembers a broad mix of the music of the day.
Like Schumacher, he may be the polar opposite of a hippie. The clean-cut U.S. Air Force ROTC member brought his military uniform along in the van because he had to fly back to Indianapolis afterward for work.
Peaceniks had no problems with him at all at a time when anti-Vietnam sentiment raged.
“I was already a very open-minded person,” Brand said. “I readily accepted everyone I met there, and everyone I met readily accepted me.”
Brand mentioned that media accounts of peace and love at the gathering were entirely accurate.
The arts council could use some of that love Oct. 22.
“The local arts definitely are part of what makes Columbus special,” Brand said. “And I think they sometimes are a part of what makes someone decide to come work for companies such as Cummins or Faurecia or Elwood Staffing or any other employer.
“The second thing that is important, and it’s something that maybe doesn’t get recognized enough, is that the arts council directs its programming at the whole community — old, young, rich, poor, black, white, everyone. And it provides opportunities that might not be available in other communities.”
What: 41st annual unCommon Cause to raise money for the Columbus Area Arts Council. The nonprofit agency is known for programs such as Old National Bank’s First Fridays for Families, JCB NeighborFest, Rock The Park and other entertainment.
When: 6 p.m. Oct. 22, featuring a meal, live music, and a silent and public auction.
Where: The Commons, 300 Washington St. in Columbus.
Tickets: $125 per person, available at artsincolumbus.org and at
Information: 812-376-2539 or artsincolumbus.org.