Remembering the 1979 Yaphank concert at Parr Meadows
It attracted an audience only a fraction of the size of the original. But like the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, a 10th anniversary "reunion concert" in Yaphank didn't go according to plan.
The Sept. 8, 1979, event at the Parr Meadows Racetrack featured performers who appeared in August 1969 upstate in White Lake. As at Woodstock, fans arrived early, catching the promoter off-guard. Suffolk police called in reinforcements as more than a thousand young people arrived the day before the show, parked along the William Floyd Parkway and massed outside the racetrack gates, generating complaints from residents when they lit campfires in the woods.
The next day, promoter Richard Nader delayed opening the gates, saying there was a problem coming up with sufficient security personnel. He relented when Brookhaven officials threatened to revoke his permit.
The concert attracted 18,000 people, lasted 10 hours and performers included Woodstock veterans John Sebastian, Canned Heat, Johnny Winter, Stephen Stills, Paul Butterfield and Country Joe McDonald, who scolded the crowd for being too well-behaved. Newsday reported there was little evidence of drug use, but beer was plentiful.
Parr Meadows opened as a quarter-horse track in 1977 and ceased race operations after only 113 days. The 65-acre parcel north of the Long Island Expressway operated for 88 days as the Suffolk Meadows Race Track in 1986. Last spring, Sysco Corp. filed plans to build a regional headquarters there but then shelved the project.