Woodstock a special moment in history
By the time we got to Woodstock we were half a million strong, And
everywhere was a song and a celebration. - Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
It was 40 years ago this weekend the Woodstock Music and Art Fair was
held at Max Yasgur's farm in Bethel, N.Y.
Unless you've lived in a cave your whole life, you know the story:
Budding young entrepreneurs Michael Lang, Artie Kornfeld and some of
their friends came up with the idea of putting together a music
festival in upstate New York, inviting some of music's big names to
perform. Their hopes: Music fans would be able to commune with
nature, and the would-be promoters could maybe make a few bucks.
By Friday, Aug. 15, the first day of the three-day festival, most of
the roads leading to the Woodstock festival grounds had been shut
down, clogged by more traffic than anyone ever could have imagined.
Most festivalgoers simply abandoned their vehicles along the roads
and trekked to the concert site, one of the reasons then-New York
Gov. Nelson Rockefeller declared that part of his state a disaster area.
Woodstock is remembered by some as a disaster: There was not adequate
food for the 500,000 who actually made it to the festival; there were
few restroom facilities; drugs - "Stay away from the brown acid" -
were rampant; and rain turned the grounds into a "sea of mud."
But the hardy souls, both artists and spectators, who survived
Woodstock turned it into a cultural event unlike any other that came
before it or after. There were few security problems despite the
amazing throng of people, a tribute to the peaceful vibe of the
festival. The spirit of cooperation among organizers, attendees and
charitable groups in nearby towns helped keep the problems that
plagued the event from ruining it.
And there was the music ... incredible music. Indelible performances
by which all such similar events are compared, and for which they all
come up lacking.
Hendrix's iconic "Star Spangled Banner" ... Crosby, Stills, Nash &
Young's "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" ... Joan Baez's "Joe Hill" ... Sly &
the Family Stone's "I Wanna Take You Higher" ... 10 Years After's
"I'm Going Home" ... Santana's "Soul Sacrifice" ... the Who's "Tommy"
... Richie Havens' "Freedom" ... the Jefferson Airplane's
"Volunteers" ... Arlo Guthrie's "Coming Into Los Angeles" ... and Joe
Cocker's unforgettable "With a Little Help From My Friends."
Not forgetting, of course, Country Joe & the Fish's shocking (for the
day) "Fish Cheer."
Sociologists with a poetic bent say Woodstock represents the last
vestiges of the hippie generation's innocence, and there's truth in
that. The immediate aftermath - escalation in Vietnam, anti-war
protests, the shooting of college students at Kent State University,
Watergate - offered a historical perspective that left Woodstock, in
retrospect, as something of a quaint occurrance far removed from the
Promoters tried to resurrect the Woodstock spirit in 1994 and 1999
when they held 25-year and 30-year anniversary versions. I had the
opportunity to attend the latter with my son, and while the festival
was something of a disaster, it remains one of my greatest musical memories.
Yes, I remember the $30 bags of ice and $5 cokes that so infuriated
concertgoers they ended up burning vendors' tents and stands to the
ground. I remember standing in long lines to take "baths" at a lone
PVC faucet that left a river of mud in the middle of the festival grounds.
And I remember Port-a-Potties that were ghastly; kids sliding through
the mud whose source ran under the Port-a-Potties; surly
ticket-takers who confiscated metal tent pegs and canned sodas at the
entrance gate; steaming heat bouncing off the concrete at the former
Rome, N.Y., air base; avoiding all food to keep from having to use
the ghastly Port-a-Potties.
But way more than that I remember getting my first tattoo (the
Woodstock bird-on-guitar emblem); I remember the bodypainting tent;
the feeling of community in an ungodly crowd of 350,000. Mostly,
though, I remember watching and listening to Kid Rock and James Brown
and Metallica and the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Dave Matthews Band
and Wyclef Jean and Ice Cube and Live and Korn and Our Lady Peace and
Bush and Rage Against the Machine.
Yet, even with such wonderful music, attempts to recapture the spirit
of the original Woodstock were not successful. In fact, they could
pretty much be classified as dismal failures. But anyone who thought
that moment in American history could ever happen again was
delusional in the first place. There will only ever be one Woodstock
... long may its magic live on.
E-mail Carlton Fletcher at email@example.com.
Festival, war indelibly linked
Aug 15, 2009
Forty years ago today, a music festival commenced in upstate New York.
Throughout this weekend, there will be much said and talked about
regarding Woodstock and the impact it had on history and a
generation. For many, the four-day music festival at Max Yasgur's
600-acre dairy farm in Bethel, N.Y., 43 miles from the town of
Woodstock, is among the most significant political and sociological
events of the age. But to appreciate its place in history, one also
must consider the backdrop to which it played.
Woodstock came a year after the Chicago riots at the Democratic
National Convention, and nine months before the Kent State shootings.
What they had in common was a growing opposition to the Vietnam War.
Woodstock was the festival of love and peace.
Party vs. war
During the four day run, it was easy to ignore the events taking
place halfway around the world.
From Aug. 15 through Aug. 18, more than 400,000 young people
gathered for the festival, enduring rain and mud, a shortage of food
and supplies, an overabundance of drugs and music. During that same
four-day period, 514,000 young Americans were experiencing similar
living hardships in a place called Vietnam.
During those four days, three young people died at Woodstock; drugs
reportedly playing a factor in each death. During the same four days,
102 young Americans were killed in the war, the largest number of
them, 35, dying on the fourth day as the revelers of Woodstock were
packing up to head home.
For those who attended the Woodstock festival, this weekend will be
an anniversary to celebrate and fondly recall the memories of a
For those who served during that period, Vietnam is a lifelong memory
that needs no anniversary in order to recall the events they experienced.
Woodstock was, without doubt, a significant event but significant
only in comparison, and hopefully today in appreciation, of the other
side of story.
Denver man remembers Woodstock 40 years later
by: Kirk Montgomery
August 18. 2009
DENVER - The summer of 1967 is often called "The Summer of Love"
after 100,000 people converged on the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of
San Francisco. That event could also be called a dress rehearsal for
what would happen two summers later.
The Woodstock Music and Art Festival took place in the small town of
Bethel, New York on August 15, 16, and 17, 1969. Half a million
people attended. Peter Tonks of Denver was one of them.
"It was incredible" he said. "There was a sense of community I have
not experience since, and I've actually lived in spiritual communities"
He recalls a moment, that he says sums up his experience.
"It was synchronistic, things were happening, a friend of mine and I
were walking, we both were very thirsty, we looked at each other at
the same time, and at that very moment a man walking in front of us,
stopped, turned and gave us his canteen of water, we hadn't said a
word," Tonks explained.
Long before instant messaging and cell phones, word of the music
festival spread via the radio.
"I was in my late teens, grew up in metro New York suburbia" he said.
"It was well known with the underground radio stations were
broadcasting information about this. I went up with two friends in my
friend's father's 1967 Chevy which we totaled en route."
Tonks and his friends almost didn't make it to the festival.
"We stopped into a general store and when we walked out we had
attracted the wrath of rednecks in a pickup truck, it was right out
of "Easy Rider,"" he remembered. "They chased us, threw beer bottles
and tried to run us off the road"
That encounter caused the accident that totaled their transportation
so they hitch hiked the rest of the way.
The people, the rain and the music forever seared into his memory.
"I've often thought what would somebody from 1969, given the
incredible variety and creativity of the music, what would they think
if they teleported to today and listened to gangster-rap? They would
probably think the lunatics had taken over the asylum.
"Times have changed, it was a different time, there was a sense of
unity that doesn't exist now, there was an idealism that has
deteriorate into materialism, and in terms of the music, nothing
compares in my opinion with that's out there now," he said.
Tonks spends his time writing music and novels. His extensive
collection of Woodstock memorabilia includes the original ticket and
program for the show.
By the time we think back to Woodstock ...
Concert was a starting point, say contributors to book on event
By Krisy Gashler
August 15, 2009
Trumansburg resident Sandy List was desperate to get to Woodstock but
didn't make it because her truck died, while Binghamton resident
Barbara Heller just stumbled upon the festival looking for work.
"We were very into the music," List said of herself and her
then-husband. "I mean, we bought record albums weekly. We'd get our
paycheck and go to the record store."
Living in Gettysburg, Pa., List and her husband saw ads in the New
York papers for the Woodstock festival and didn't think twice about
paying $18 a pair for tickets.
"There were 30 to 34 bands. That was everybody," she said. "I mean
you just went, 'Oh my god, all those people are gonna be on one bill?
We've got to go.'"
Heller, on the other hand, hadn't even heard about the festival a
week before it happened.
The festival started Friday, and on Tuesday or Wednesday, "an
acquaintance of mine said, 'Oh there's this big music festival
happening, and they're looking for people to work,'" she said.
She took off immediately and was hired to work in a concession stand
called "Food for Love." Another food provider, the Hog Farm commune,
traveled across the country to help out, she said.
"They had a lot of rice and vegetables, and that sort of hippie food,
and they served it out of big metal garbage cans," she said.
Festival coordinators ran out of food the first night, thanks to the
massive and unplanned-for crowds, Heller said. But people seemed to
take that - along with the rain, mud, and inadequate sanitary
facilities - in stride.
"I don't really remember anybody complaining," she said, adding that
people chose to be there. "It was a weekend and most of us were very
privileged in our lives."
For List, a broken-down truck meant she experienced Woodstock through
news reports on her radio at home. Even so, List said she still felt
connected to the moment and the lessons of Woodstock.
"I kind of mark that as about the time when people really started to
talk about going back to the land and doing constructive things,"
said List, a writer and editor. "Before that, it was more focused on
youth finding themselves, kind of like the hippies and Haight-Ashbury
and the Summer of Love, and saying 'Peace, love man,' and startling
the established culture."
Heller, now a psychotherapist, said that for her, Woodstock was more
of a symbol of the era rather than a turning point.
"It really was more of a party and a connection of a lot of people
who felt like outsiders," she said. "It was very different from the
anger and powerlessness that we often felt in anti-war marches and activities."
List and Heller are two of the 50 contributors to "Woodstock
Revisited," a compilation of essays commemorating the 40th
anniversary of the Woodstock Music & Art Fair. They'll both be
signing copies of their book this Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Barnes &
Noble on Meadow Street.
Thousands flock to Bethel for Woodstock anniversary
August 15, 2009
By BILL BLEYER
BETHEL - Woodstock veteran Rich Walka of Bayville ushered his
5-year-old son to the monument commemorating the 1969 Woodstock music
festival and tried - in vain - to explain why the event was so special.
"You know what brought us up here?" asked Walka, 58, who was making
his third visit to Max Yasgur's former farm since attending the
original gathering 40 years ago. "Peace and music. There was a good vibe."
Richie Jr., who said he liked rock music, was more interested in
filling a discarded soda bottle with blades of grass he plucked from
But thousands of others who flocked to the site Saturday were
consumed with interest in the famous concert, whether they were here
for the original or not. There was a line of people waiting to be
photographed at the monument. While they waited, they were
entertained by three guitarists from New Jersey singing 1960s rock
music as others sat in the shade and traded anecdotes and shared
photos and memorabilia.
Others filled the Woodstock museum at the Bethel Woods Center for the
Arts at the top of the natural amphitheater while waiting for a 5
p.m. concert with remnants of some of the original acts including
Country Joe McDonald and Mountain, whose leader, Leslie West, was
married on stage during his set. All 15,000 seats were sold before the weekend.
Lorraine Lapinski, 55, of New Hyde Park, came back for her third time
since 1969. "It looks very different," she said, because while the
original bowl stayed the same, having the museum and related
buildings on the hilltop changed the look and feel of the site.
Richard Younger from Sunnyside, Queens, walked 10 miles to get to the
Woodstock Music and Art Fair in 1969. He decided to repeat that walk
yesterday despite the hot weather to raise money for cancer research
after three friends died from the disease. "It wasn't too bad," he
said after arriving at the monument before 1 p.m. And he collected
more than $4,000 in donations.
The celebration this weekend drew 150 media outlets from around the
world. Carolina Stapleton from the Brazilian Public TV Network,
Cultura, said she came to cover the anniversary because "Brazil, like
everywhere else, had the '60s. They really appreciate those dinosaurs
from Woodstock like Jimi Hendrix."
Bethel residents mingled with Woodstock veterans at a Friday night
reception at the town historical museum, a small temporary facility
featuring Woodstock memorabilia, such as an original security jacket.
Rich Klein, 48, a former Massapequa Park resident who became a
permanent Bethel resident three years ago, said he was attending
summer camp here in 1969 when the sounds of the festival a mile away
filled the mountain air.
"I thought the music was coming from heaven when I heard Joan Baez at
8 years old," he said.
Peace, music & love: Remembering Woodstock
Jacksonville area residents take a look back at their experiences at
Woodstock 40 years ago.
By Roger Bull
Aug. 17, 2009
It was the gathering of the tribes, the dawning of the age of
Aquarius, a human be-in and one really, really big concert.
It was officially called the Woodstock Music & Art Fair, but it's
become simply Woodstock over the years.
Forty years ago this weekend, the crowds gathered at Max Yasgur's
dairy farm in the small town of Bethel, N.Y. And they kept coming and
There wasn't any way to count how many. Fences were knocked down; no
one was taking tickets. But estimates are that 500,000 or so people
gathered in the fields there to hear the biggest collection of rock
and folk performers that anyone had seen at that point: Jimi Hendrix,
Jefferson Airplane, Creedence Clearwater Revival and a few dozen more.
Woodstock became a symbol of a time, of a movement when love would
conquer all, before Altamont and Charles Manson came along to say
that maybe it wouldn't.
On this anniversary, we talked with Jacksonville area folks who were
there for those three days of peace and music:
Then: A graduate student in library science at the University of Kentucky.
Now: 62, a librarian at the Beaches Regional Library.
Even before Woodstock, Daye was heavily into the counterculture, "Up
to my eyeballs and beyond," she said. She and her husband were
married in a national forest, for goodness' sake.
She and her husband rode up from Kentucky "with the other freaks."
They got there early enough to sit close to the stage. Ravi Shankar
was heart-stopping, Crosby, Stills and Nash were amazing but Janis
Joplin was way too wasted.
"And Country Joe, everybody remembers 'Give me an F.' "
She didn't remember exactly how she got back to Kentucky. A VW van
was involved, she thinks. But she does remember the feeling.
"It reaffirmed my faith in humanity that that many people could get
along," she said. "It deepened my conviction that we were all one.
And it made me more aware that you have to watch out for yourself.
Some flower children didn't realize that.
"We thought we could win the revolution," she said. "That it was
going to be biblically swords into plowshares, that love would
prevail. Unfortunately, it attracted losers and leeches along with
the luminaries. And we learned the revolution was within us."
She did, however, get very dirty.
"When the movie came out and I saw the lake, I said, 'Bleep, where
was that? I didn't see a lake.'"
J.T. Rhodes and James Salzer
Then: Roommates at the University of Florida after being classmates
at Bishop Kenny High School.
Now: Rhodes is 60 and owns a CPA firm; Salzer is 62 and retired from
the Duval County Department of Health.
Rhodes was working that summer for the state board of health, looking
at death certficates. But he and Salzer were at the Atlanta
International Pop Festival when the Woodstock lineup was announced.
"It was just everybody," Rhodes said. "I turned to him and said we
have to go. So we went."
They drove his sister's Winnebago motor home, which weren't very
common in those days. As they got closer, they started filling the
motor home with people.
"It was just constant partying," Salzer said. "When we got to the
bottom of a hill, everyone had to get out so we could drive to the
top of the next one. But when we got to the top, we filled it back up again."
"At one point," Rhodes said, "we were right by the stage and they had
just boxes and boxes of programs, and nobody cared. Like good little
hippies, I only took six and gave five away. I should have taken a whole box."
Then: Living in Connecticut and going to high school. Now: 58, chief
accounting officer for Suddath's government services division.
His strongest memory: "We arrived about 3:30 Friday afternoon. When
you came in, you were in front of the people and almost behind the
stage. Richie Havens was right near the end of his set and to have
300,000 people stand up, cheering and screaming as we came in, that
But they didn't last long.
"My buddy liked his comfortable bed. He'd never camped and could take
So Saturday morning, they hitchhiked out of there.
Then: A college student in New Jersey, living at home and working the
summer doing maintenance at a Catholic school across the street. Now:
58, a retired postmaster living in St. Johns Golf and Country Club
"I was painting in a classroom at the school and a friend came in
said there was a big concert and did I want to go. I said, 'Yeah, I
guess, how much is it?'
"He said $18, and I said "$18!? That's way too much.' But he said it
was for three days."
They went to a camping store there in New Jersey and tried to rent a
tent, but the owner said they'd all been rented to people headed for
Woodstock. So D'Alessio bought a sleeping bag.
"I still have it," he said. "I wouldn't part with it for anything."
Strongest memory: "We walked up to a food booth and there was a guy
with long hair, clearly stoned out of his mind, cooking this one
hamburger on the grill. He kept turning it over and over.
"There's a line of people forming, and he's still flipping the burger
over and over. Finally, somebody says 'I think it's done' and offers
him a buck for it. They started bidding for it, $5, $10.
"Then somebody says 'I'll give you a joint,' and the guy's eyes light
up. Someone else offered two joints and next thing you know, he's got
the whole grill full of hamburgers."
Footnote: After reminiscing the past week or so about Woodstock with
the Times-Union, D'Alessio decided Wednesday that he's driving back
up to Bethel, N.Y., for the 40th anniversary concert.
Then: Already a veteran of protests in Chicago and Washington,
Lindsay quit his job and moved out of the house that summer rather
than get a haircut. Now: 60, a machinist who makes metal plates that
are implanted in people's heads.
Lindsay tried but didn't quite make it to Woodstock. He and his
fiancee were visiting her brother in Rhode Island when he stopped in
a head shop and saw a poster for the concert.
"We got as far as the New York line," he said, "but they'd closed the freeway."
Or, in the immortal words of Arlo Guthrie: "The New York Thruway is
They turned around and went back.
"When we got home and saw the news about it," Lindsay said, "It was
'Oh, man. We really missed it.' "
Barbara Erskine Miller
Then: A college student at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
staying in summer school "because I wanted to party with my friends."
Now: 59, semi-retired but working part time in a golf store and
really into golf.
Though she was in college in Wisconsin, her family was in New York,
so she planned a two-week trip back home so she could go to the festival.
"Bob Dylan was my hero, I knew Woodstock is where he lived. I hoped
he'd show up."
Miller, her brother and a friend drove down from Rochester in the
friend's mother's station wagon. They parked right next to the
helicopter pad where the musicians flew in and out.
"We sat 50 yards straight out from the stage, right in front of a TV
camera, maybe it was movie," she said. "One of these days, I'm going
to get the DVD and go through it slowly to see if I can find us.
"My husband still doesn't believe I was there. The problem is that we
all looked the same back then."
One memory: After The Who had finished its set, Pete Townshend
smashed his guitar and tossed it to the audience. But it landed in
the huge pit of photographers in front of the stage and one of them
politely handed it back.
"We left Sunday afternoon because we just kind of bummed out by all
the bad drug announcements. I didn't see any of Sunday's show, didn't
"But you know, I've seen the movie so many times that I'm not sure
who I saw and who I didn't. It was the '60s, so there's a lot of dead
brain cells anyway."
Miller went back to college, but didn't last long. She hitchhiked out
to San Francisco and lived there a year and a half.
She went back by herself for the 20th anniversary of Woodstock.
"I just felt like I needed to," she said, "and it was so strange to
get there and see all the people who felt the same thing. We sat
around reminiscing with all these kids at our feet, like "Tell me
stories, Grandma, about the good old days."
Then: Just finished his freshman year at Principia College in
Illinois. Now: 58, retired after teaching at Sandalwood High School
and working in information technology at Prudential.
Chapman was home for the summer in Oklahoma working as and he
swears he's not making this up security at the University of
Oklahoma cheerleader camp. Despite that enviable job, the Rolling
Stone ad for Woodstock grabbed him right away.
It was the music that got him, and he'd been playing in bands all
through high school.
"If there hadn't been a Vietnam War, I would have taken a year
between high school and college to make it in music," he said. "In
retrospect, it was a good thing because I wasn't any good."
He wanted to ride motorcycles from Oklahoma to New York with a
friend, but his parents wouldn't go for that. Instead, they let him
use his father's VW Bug. They visited friends along the way, and the
trip went smoothly until they were about to cross the Delaware River
from New Jersey into Pennsylvania.
"It's maybe 9 or 10 at night, we're still 70 to 80 miles away and all
of a sudden we're in a traffic jam," he said. "The police were
walking along the line of cars. They didn't say a word, they just
shined a flashlight into our eyes and into our car.
"We were probably stuck there for 45 minutes. I guess they shut the
river crossing down checking for drugs. But I didn't see anyone
arrested, not a word was said.
"Once we cross the river, it was speed limit again."
They got there about 2 in the morning, grabbed a couple of hours of
sleep and then walked the final mile and a half.
"Nothing was going on. We got fairly close, laid out a blanket and
sat down. The first thing, about 9 in the morning, they started
playing the new Crosby, Stills and Nash album on those big ***
speakers. I hadn't heard it yet, and it was great."
When the rains came again, they grabbed three poles from the fence
that had been knocked down and built a tepee with their blankets,
right in the middle of the crowd.
"Nobody got mad," he said. "We came with sandwiches, but we just took
a bite and passed it along. People didn't hoard anything. The only
thing that was uncool was there some guys, they looked they were
probably military, grilling steaks on a hibachi. Everybody else was
sharing everything, but they wouldn't."
Then: He'd just finished his junior year of college, living in New
Paltz, N.Y., and working in a summer camp. Now: 61, owner of Ponte
Vedra Shoe Repair
This is how Vito Longo puts it: "I flunked Woodstock."
He was living about 50 miles from Woodstock when he first heard about it.
"It was $20, and I didn't have the money," he said. "But when I heard
on the news that it was free, well it was just over the mountain.
"I had a '58 Oldsmobile, we dressed up like hippies and went over the
second day. We hitched a ride in with the truck that had bundles of
programs. Everybody was just hanging onto the truck.
"We asked the driver if we could have some and he said sure. Nobody
cared at that point."
The got a spot a long ways from the stage, spread out the programs
and sat for a while.
"The music sucked," he said. "The sound wasn't that good where we
were sitting, and I wasn't about to go down into that mess of people.
"I just wasn't into it. I didn't do drugs, I didn't see any drugs,
didn't see any naked women. It was pretty boring. We left. The movie
was a lot better."