After six years of effort, an Independence man’s film on a bit of Missouri history is about to make it to the silver screen.
Forty years ago this summer, the Ozark Mountain Festival – intended to be a Midwestern Woodstock – staged bands ranging from Aerosmith to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band for three sweltering days on the State Fairgrounds in Sedalia.
It wasn’t all peace and love.
“After Woodstock, people wanted to make this as wild as possible,” said Jeff Lujin, an Independence resident who is originally from Sedalia.
His documentary is “The Story of the Ozark Mountain Festival: Three Days of Sodom and Gomorrah in Sedalia, Mo.” It’s scheduled for a first screening in Sedalia on July 19, the 40th anniversary of the beginning of the festival. No local screenings have been scheduled yet.
To this day, he said at a recent promotional event in Independence, the festival brings up hard feelings in Sedalia. He’s conducted about 140 interviews so far. He said the event drew at least 200,000 people who came to see Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Eagles, Joe Walsh, Bob Seger, REO Speedwagon and others.
“They took over the entire fairgrounds and the surrounding community,” Lujin said.
And there were problems. It was 100 degrees each day. There were only four portable-potties – one of which was set on fire – for all those people. Water was cut off for half a day. There was a lot of nudity and drugs. One person died of an overdose, and a few suffered violent injuries. Plus, the town was fearful and hostile.
“Because they thought it was the Manson family,” Lujin said. “And Sedalia was not counter-culture friendly.”
The documentary draws on the memories of many who were there, and Lujin is still tracking down some last pieces. For example, Ted Nugent played there, and supposedly there’s a clip of him on the Mike Douglas show a few years later saying the event was the most insane thing he ever saw.
Lujin has put years into this project.
“Part of it is sentimental attachment to Sedalia at that time,” he said.
He was very young at the time of the festival, but he finds the subject compelling.
“It’s become part of the DNA of the town,” he said.
He loves music and is sympathetic to the counter-culture, though he suggests that the Ozark Mountain Festival had parallels to Woodstock five years earlier but was drained of Woodstock’s emphasis on social awareness and action.
“How thoroughly this pissed off my hometown fascinates me,” he said.