In August of 1970, at the height of the Vietnam War, President Richard Nixon was slated to come to Portland, and so were thousands of antiwar protesters.
Oregon was preparing for violent protests in the streets of Portland. That’s when the idea of Vortex 1 was born.
Drugs, sex, rock ‘n’ roll and Republican politics converged in an Oregon forest in the summer of 1970 to pull off an unlikely scheme. It was a tense time in America. Protests across the nation were ending in bloodshed, including in downtown Portland.
In an unlikely partnership, Oregon’s Republican governor teamed up with a group of self-described hippies to throw a drug-fueled rock festival in the woods. Oregon Vortex 1: A Biodegradable Festival of Life served as a distraction from a potentially volatile situation in Portland.
Though it only lasted a few short days, the impact of Vortex on Oregon is felt to this day.
“I think the primary thing that I remember is the unifying effect, the unity of us,”Lee Meier said. “We were all coming together to solve a problem and we didn’t have an authoritarian top-down structure. It was pretty much a community communal response.”