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Vortex I

Pete Springer/OPB

Summer 1970: Tensions over the Vietnam War were high. President Richard Nixon was expected in Portland to speak to a convention of the Amercian Legion. The FBI warned Oregon officials to expect as many as 50,000 anti-war protesters. But the improbable events that unfolded next could hardly have been predicted.

Republican Governor Tom McCall gave his blessing to a counter-culture festival known as Vortex I in rural Clackamas County. The “Biodegradable Festival of Life” was orchestrated to lure protesters away from Nixon and the American Legion in downtown Portland. It worked. An estimated 30 to 100,000 people converged over the course of the week at McIver State Park. They danced, took off their clothes, rolled around in the mud, smoked pot and dropped acid. But as Governor Tom McCall said later, “Nobody was killed.”

Not only that, he was re-elected.

Oregon Experience will air a documentary exploring the unique event on Monday, February 8th. We invite you to watch the documentary and join in the discussion with us the next morning.

Were you one of the tens of thousands of people who attended Vortex I? What was your experience? What can we learn from this historical event? What does it tell us about contemporary Oregon? Does learning about this unique event change your perception of Oregon history?


  • Matt Love: Vortex I historian
  • Doris Penwell: Assistant to Governor Tom McCall’s press secretary
  • Lee Meier: Activist and one of the founders of Vortex I
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