[VIDEO] Summer 1973 – 600,000 people descend on Watkins Glen


Earlier this spring, I finally made the trip to Bethel, New York to visit the site of the 1969 Woodstock Music and Art Fair, as well as the Bethel Woods Complex Museum. I had been meaning to visit for a long time, and I’m glad I got rid of my butt and made the trip in under 2 hours.

There is another major musical event that happened just 4 years later that I know better, but you rarely hear about. This event was held at Watkins Glen, New York Grand Prix Race Track, which now hosts an annual NASCAR race in the summer as well as other racing events.

The event was named Summer Jam. It was designed by music promoters Jim Koplik, Shelly Finkel and Bill Graham. The festival only lasted one day, July 23, 1973. Artists contracted to perform were The Grateful Dead, The Band and The Allman Brothers Band.

The maximum number of participants was to be around 150,000 according to the website live for music. Well, given that Watkins Glen is close to so many major cities and was well promoted nationwide with three popular rock bands, it had to sell itself.

What no one expected, and much to the horror of the Watkins Glen community, in the days leading up to the concert, it was following in Woodstock’s footsteps, except that this show had about 200,000 more attendees. About 600,000 people descended on the track. For many years, Summer Jam held the record for the largest music festival in terms of attendance.

Each band played for about three hours, then did a jam session at the end to cap off the day. According to Live For The Music website.

The concert was a month after I graduated from high school, but unfortunately I didn’t attend the show, even though I lived just 10 miles from the Watkins Glen race track. My dad attended the concert since he worked as a deputy with the Schuyler County Sheriff’s Department.

He described the event to us as a once-in-a-lifetime experience and mentioned that it was packed with people, that it would be difficult to make arrests if necessary, as it was nearly impossible to get people in and out . . Any serious emergency would require helicopter support.

I remember that the community of Watkins Glen ended up banning this concert from happening again. A few days after the show, my dad and I visited the race track, and all that was left was a sea of ​​trash. I can only imagine the interesting things the cleanup crews found during the cleanup.

Summer Jam never gained the notoriety of Woodstock. The Live For The Music website mentions that part of the reason was timing. The 1960s were over, the Vietnam War was over and so the protests began. Also, the concert was not allowed to be filmed, so there is nothing on the video to get a similar experience to the Woodstock concert.

There’s a lot to learn about the ’73 Watkins Glen Summer Jam. And the Live For The Music website did a great job with the whole timeline as well as the bands song list and photos from the event. Take a peek and relive what was once the biggest concert in the world, just an hour west of Binghamton – Watkins Glen Summer Jam.

Going through live for music

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