From the Sept. 26, 1978 edition of the Vineyard Gazette by Stan Hart:

On the morning of festival day the sun broke through a fibrous, milkweed cloud bank and brought a steady heat to the wet earth. By 8:30 scrubbed-faced children of the bourgeoisie were bicycling and hitchhiking to the Allen Farm, and others packed in vans were cruising State Road just past Alley’s Store, heading for Chilmark. The crisp morning air carried a fervid beat of high expectancy, and while hearts seemed to race with anticipation, officers of the law plied the roadsides giving directions, re-routing people and generally inspiring caution. The Anti-Nuclear Festival starring Carly Simon, Kate and Alex Taylor and assorted rock musicians was about to begin.

For at least a week or more disbelief and apprehension had been the governing feelings expressed by the citizenry of the Island. Indeed, it seemed that the anti-nuke people were purveying their cause in the face of widespread opposition. People had visions of hippies and drug freaks, undisciplined and violent destroyers of the environment and Island tranquility. And in the midst of the murmured outrage stood selectman Betty Ann Bryant, a blithe spirit if there ever was one.

“I think the town of Chilmark should look forward to a delightful off-season event,” she said, smiling as though a tulip festival were on the docket or maybe a convention of chamber music societies. Everything will work out just fine she seemed to be saying, and preparations continued at Allen Farm.

In a long, unending line the audience wended its way up onto the giant sloping hill at Allen’s, finding places to sit on the freshly- mowed grass and over roots and stumps of brush recently cut by Mal Jones with his tractor. They spread blankets about and waited, lolling in the sunshine of the morning while the lesser-known group played the blues and then recorded music flowed out over the field.

Soon the hill began to fill as more and more people slid by the ticket takers to take their places in testimony to their disbelief in the wisdom of nuclear energy and to their belief in the wonder of the music.

T-shirted “peacekeepers” were everywhere insuring calm, and behind the pastoral amphitheatre selected persons and members of the press were allowed to mingle with the performers and those speakers who would exhort against nuclear reactors and tell us of the dangers of plutonium.

And James Taylor arrived, although not listed as a performer. Known on this day as the husband of Carly Simon, he drove through the crowd at the entranceway to park his white checker sedan up in the roped-off area to the left of the stage. Looking like a country shopkeeper in a short haircut, the slender Mr. Taylor went out to the “mixing board” and to visit with friends. People in the crowd gazed up at him, showing their recognition, and he, an international celebrity at home on his own turf, said his good mornings as he walked among the spectators, like a country boy back from college.

The day slipped on into the afternoon, the music getting ever more professional, the beat a touch louder and the fine rhythms of the Pousette-Dart Band echoed through the hills.

Soon Gay Head’s Kate Taylor sang, her driving style in contrast with the delicate beauty of her person.

Alex Taylor followed, more than 200 pounds of energized rock ‘em, sock ‘em exuberance, his music thumping the ground like some terrestrial thunder.

And a man named John Hall was ubiquitous through the long affair as some guiding genius whose hand touched almost every group that was to perform.

And then a silence fell over the congregation. By 4:15 you could hear a person cough half way up the hill, for it was superstar time, and regardless of the great merit in all the previous performers, the phenomenon of stardom had cast its magic over the crowd. In an anxious hush they were awaiting Carly Simon.

With floppy hair falling over her long, angular face she pressed her willowy body to the microphone. Alive to the crowd and in her world, barraged by the sun and by adoration, she seemed like a great queen, a regal figure to give the final convocation to the pilgrims on the hill. And this she did, belting out song after song before winding up with a rousing rendition of John Hall’s Power, singing with Mr. Hall in an absolutely riveting duet.

Behind them, riding a great Chilmark high, sang Kate and Alex Taylor and Phil Ballou, the whole stage soaring out at the audience. As an encore they all sang This Land Is Your Land. Surely Chilmark had never seen anything like it.

And Carly Simon, swinging to the unfettered rhythms in her heart, seemed to sing with the sheer womanness of her flourishing on stage: a love-lady baring her zest for life. And life was really what it was all about. Life without nukes. Life, instead, with human love and love for nature, for the earth at Allen Farm and the wide blue ocean rolling on the nearby shore. Life filled with the vastness of joy.

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox