Rock Falls Revival Park: Midsummer Music Festival
Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania
In early August, my friends and I attended a gathering – a two day musical fest. It was a “good ole” gathering with plenty of food, booze, kids, dogs, and all the other requirements for a “hootenanny.” That was what our friend, Ron, called it when we arrived on Friday evening and were getting ready to set up our tent. “You have to stay both nights,” he said. “We have blue grass, new grass, and classic rock.”
Two years ago, Ron and Todd had bought the common ground of historical Rock Falls Park, which is located on Route 173 North along the banks of Slippery Rock Creek, just south of the town of Slippery Rock. Legend has it that an Indian who was chasing a settler slipped on the slippery rocks of the creek allowing the settler to escape and spawning the name for the creek, the town, and later Slippery Rock Normal School, which would eventually become part of Pennsylvania’s state university system. Over the years many people (including this author) would wear their pants thin with holes made while sliding down the rocks and the falls.
The park originally opened in 1932. Called Stoughton’s Beach after the family who built it on their farm, the park advertised having PA’s largest swimming pool with two diving boards. The 10 ft. board was for public use and the 20 ft. board was used mainly for exhibitions. One of the attractions featured divers plunging into a gasoline soaked fiery pool. There were canoe rentals, cottages to rent, a skating rink, and a dance hall where vacationers could boogie the night away to popular bands all within feet of winding Slippery Rock Creek. The carousel was imported from Germany and was so rare that today it resides in the Smithsonian. The park was closed during World War II but re-opened and remained popular as a get-a-way until the early 70’s when it fell into disrepair.
The new owners are trying to revitalize the park. Last year they held the first Slippery Rock Revival Park Mid-Summer Music Fest. This year, it was two days instead of one. The road has been fixed and camp sites maintained and flowers planted. The oak grove was equipped with electricity, a covered stage, porta johns, a dunking booth (for the kids), popcorn stand, snow cone stand, and t-shirt vendors. There were door prizes and raffles. They charged $10pp for one day and $15pp for two, camping included.
Friday night we were entertained by the Rockafellas with old-style swing blues and the Bootleg Bros with hillbilly rock. Later that night the campers got out their guitars and drums and had a campfire jam around the huge stone fire pit. As I sat around the bonfire, enjoying my refreshing beverage and watching the shadows of the giant oaks dance along with the people, I was even moved to borrow a drum and join my beat to the rhythm of the others – a totally new experience.
Beginning Saturday afternoon, there were three bands. The Rock Falls Revival Band played new grass followed by Mountain Therapy with some blue grass. The evening ended with Supernova, a local classic rock group who ended in the top ten of Pittsburgh bands in the 2004 “Battle of the Bands.” In the early evening there was an add-a-dish picnic. A park resident tended beer can chicken, rounds of beef, and whole turkeys in charcoal fueled covered roasters.
People had traveled from far. Of about 200 attendees, I met a guy from Brussels, Belgium. There was a group of Canadians, including some of the musicians, and a whole clan from Michigan and New Jersey. There were folks from Illinois and Colorado too. For some, it was a bit of a family reunion, combined with an opportunity to visit nostalgic roots and to meet new and old friends. I heard Maggie from Michigan say that she had spent some good quality time perched on the rocks in the sunshine with the creek all around her.
Ron and Todd hope that their revitalization of the Park will include several musical fests “bigger and better” during the summer concert season. They have other plans too. In the quiet early morning, as I walked along the luminary-lit path watching the mist rise from the water, I savored the musical camaraderie of the evening before, and made a silent wish that their vision would materialize.
To find out about future Rock Falls Revival Park events, please e-mail this author.
To get to Rock Falls Revival Park: Take the 173 exit from Route 8 North and turn left immediately past the bridge over Slippery Rock Creek.