Livingston County’s version of Woodstock took place 41 years ago at the normally sedate Waldenwoods Resort in Hartland. It featured a little of everything: legendary rock bands, drugs, parking nightmares and naked people swimming in Lake Walden. It also featured a stabbing, lots of police, and a sketchy concert promoter who accidentally blew himself up a couple weeks later while on his way to commit a crime. This is the incredible story of the 1978 Chip Mann’s Fantasy Festival — the biggest concert in Livingston County history:
The event, which could have been billed as “two days of peace and music” instead featured some serious mayhem as concert-goers arrived early to camp in tents, vans and campers, and to party until the big concert on Sunday. Reports said marijuana was smoked openly.
The lineup for the event — billboarded as a fundraiser for handicapped athletes — featured some well-known bands, including the legendary MC-5 (“Kick Out the Jams”), and Brownsville Station of “Smoking in the Boys Room” fame. Reports peg the number of acts anywhere from 8-20, with tickets priced at $6.50 and $5.50 each.
Tom Parshall of Hartland was there, and he recalled the event being advertised on all the major radio stations in Detroit, Lansing, Ann Arbor and Flint. He said concert-goers began arriving as early as Friday.
“Hartland was overrun,” Parshall said. “Old U.S. 23 was completely shut down, all parking lots on M-59 were filled, cars (were) parked in every available spot in the village (of Hartland), and the Crouse Road bridge was shut down.”
Parshall recalled the event being marketed as a charity music festival “with all the beer you could drink for the price of your ticket.” A newspaper account said beer was sold on the grounds. The mounted division of the Livingston County Sheriffs Department patrolled.
The crowds stripped the local stores and markets of all the toilet paper, canned goods, meat, bread and beer they had, Parshall said, adding that hundreds of concert-goers were naked and swimming in the lake.
A 20-year-old man from Milford was attacked with a tire iron and chain by two men, one of whom stabbed him in the back with a screwdriver. As emergency workers tried to transport the victim to the hospital, a crowd blocked the path of the ambulance, while others tried to tip it over.
All available sheriff’s deputies and 20 troopers from both the Brighton and the Lansing State Police Posts responded to the ambulance crew’s call for help. An emergency service team from the Michigan State Police was called in to assist.
The two men alleged to have attacked the Milford man were arrested. The men — a 29-year-old from Hunting Valley, Penn., and a 26-year-old from Key West, Fla. — were arraigned and bound over to Livingston County Circuit Court on charges of felonious assault. It’s unclear what became of their cases.
A Dearborn woman was abducted from the concert by two men, who assaulted and raped her while transporting her in a van. They dropped her off on Territorial Road, which is near the Livingston/Washtenaw county line.
A description of the suspects and vehicle in the sexual assault led police to the mobile home of a Whitmore Lake man; his vehicle was impounded, and he was arrested and taken to the Washtenaw County Jail.
Legal troubles for the festival
Organized by Chip Mann, 23, the festival was sponsored by Together Organization for People in Services Inc. (TOPS), which claimed it was a nonprofit organization that helped handicapped athletes; it claimed its nonprofit status made it exempt from the permitting process. Hartland Township disagreed and filed suit against the organization for violating the township’s assembly ordinance, which said permission must be obtained from the township board for events drawing more than 2,000 people; the ordinance had two exemptions: for governmental units, and for nonprofits that qualified for tax exempt status.
The township obtained an injunction against the festival on Thursday, Aug. 17, 1978, but the next day Livingston County Circuit Court Judge Paul R. Mahinske ruled that since the organization met the requirements of a charitable organization, it did not need a permit.
Mahinske, concerned that the organization’s charitable status was quite recent, also ruled that the proceeds from the festival were to be deposited in an escrow account, which didn’t happen. Mahinske issued a bench warrant for event organizer Mann; he then issued a second bench warrant when Mann failed to appear in court on the first.
Mahinske also ordered the TOPS organization to clean up the paper, cans and other debris and assorted litter strewn along the U.S.-23 service drive between M-59 and Crouse Road with a deadline of Oct. 3, 1978. That cleanup reportedly took place the weekend of Sept. 30, 1978.
“I feel they did what was asked,” Hartland Township Supervisor Harold Armstrong said in a Livingston County Press story. “As far as I am concerned, the township is out of this thing.”
The death of Christopher “Chip” Mann
Just two-and-a-half weeks after the concert, in the early morning hours of Sept. 6, 1978, in Macomb County’s Shelby Township, a bomb ripped through the vehicle of Christopher Mann, killing him and another man.
In a Detroit Free Press story about the bombing, Mann was described as being on “familiar terms with death.”
A year earlier, in 1977, Mann lost a leg and nearly died in a motorcycle crash. In 1976, a motorcycle crash killed his girlfriend, who was riding with him. In 1973, Mann was injured in a car crash that killed his brother Steve.
“He had a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” a relative was quoted as saying.
Mann ran Beaver Custom Irrigation Corp., a lawn-sprinkler business, from his Clinton Township home.
After an investigation by the Shelby Township Police Department, it was determined that Mann and his companion were parked along Mound Road near Hearst Street, placing a timer on a metal pipe packed with gunpowder. Their intent, police said, was to blow something up — possibly a building — for insurance purposes.
As the men were arming the bomb, the device went off. The blast blew Mann, the driver, out of the vehicle; he was then run over by the car as it rolled 30 feet backward.
At about 4:30 a.m., an officer in a passing patrol found Mann’s body sprawled outside the vehicle, and his companion’s body inside. Both men had minor criminal records.
Chip Mann’s Fantasy Festival souvenir for sale
A T-shirt found at an estate sale is up for bid on eBay, with a suggested price of $150. The seller of the shirt is likely asking such a high price because he thinks Ozzy Osbourne performed at the event, rather than the real performers, the band named Ozzie.
If you’re interested in owning a bit of Livingston County’s rock ‘n’ roll history, click here.
If you have souvenirs or photos from this concert that you’d like to share, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org, or post in the comments below.