Woodstock was a legendary music festival that took place on a dairy farm in Bethel, New York from August 15 – 19, 1969. Originally slated as a three-day concert, organizers and attendees would quickly realize how things did not go according to plan for better or for worse. In either case, the world’s most well-known concert contained what seemed like unlimited amounts of any festival-goers dream: sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. Those born after the sixties will be hyped to know that Woodstock 2019 is happening this coming August.
Anyone can name the headliners, recognize famous footage and recite the year Woodstock took place, but the epic celebration ran much deeper. To start, the festival was organized by a group of young lads that really had no idea what they were doing. Four men named John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, Artie Kornfeld and Mike Lang originally sought to create a recording studio in Woodstock, New York for renown artists of the time. Financially backed by Roberts’ family trust fund, the team’s proposition soon transformed into creating a two-day rock concert for the masses.
Organization went underway and tickets went on pre-sale for $7/day, $13/two-day and $18 for three-days. Imagine going to Coachella for seven bucks…
Less than two months before the start date of the festival, the host city of Wallkill passed a law to ban the concert from the venue. Panic ensued as musicians backed out, refunds were demanded and severe anxiety was pushed on the four men who decided to take on this crazy feat. Shortly after, a 600-acre dairy farm owner by the name of Max Yasgur offered his land in Bethel, New York as the new location, essentially saving the Woodstock Festival from cancelation. Because of the last minute changes, festival resources such as parking lots, ticket booths, security teams and concession stands were not able to be built in time. To add to the chaos, the anticipated crowd of 50,000 had now turned into 200,000 people.
With all odds against them and as true rock stars of American culture, the Woodstock organizers insisted that the show must go on (or start for that matter). Two days before the event, 50,000 people were already at the venue bypassing security and gates that were not set up yet. This forced organizers to make the event a free concert. If only your favorite music festival was that easy to get admission…
1. The festival actually took place 70 miles away from Woodstock in Bethel, NY
2. 3 people died and 8 miscarriages were recorded
3. Organizers wanted to build a studio, not host a concert
4. Woodstock turned into a free concert because organizers could not keep track of the mass amounts of people who showed up
5. Richie Havens wasn’t supposed to be the first performer – Sweetwater was the opening act, but was was still stuck in traffic
6. There were 5,162 medical cases – 800 were drug related
7. It took organizers over 10 years to pay off the debt accumulated to put on this epic event
For attendees, free admission was a dream come true but for organizers it only caused nightmares. Loads of money was lost since organizers could not keep track of attendance. An estimated 1 million people headed to festival grounds as police turned away thousands of cars descending upon the upstate town in New York. Highways were packed, cars were abandoned and performers were literally airlifted from their hotel to the stage!
After a much anticipated wait, Woodstock officially started on Friday evening, August 15 once Richie Havens took the stage. The next three and half days included an ample amount of drug, booze and sexually sharing at an outdoor venue, barraged by humid rain and muddy grounds. Iconic footage of the event included young men and women openly indulging in drugs and promoting the peak of counterculture that has influenced so much of worldwide youth today.
‘At a time when the United States was struggling to deal with social division and the Vietnam War, Woodstock was able to provide a societal connection of human spirit, free thinking and transformative influence upon the youth of the sixties.’
By the final act, which was performed by the one-and-only Jimi Hendrix, Woodstock had officially ended on Monday morning around 9 a.m. Because of massive amounts of technical difficulties and weather delays, only 30,000 of the original half a million in attendance witnessed the closing ceremony.
Days following the epic event, original organizers truly hadn’t realized what they had created. Aside from the headaches of dealing with over 70 lawsuits and an accumulated debt of over $1 million, the Woodstock creators forged a socially inspiring festival bigger than anyone could have ever imagined. It wasn’t until a decade later that the crew was able to pay off their debts following the blockbuster hit film of the Woodstock Festival. Over $100,000 came out of their own pockets when it was all said and done.
As all festival-heads, music lovers and culture junkies can agree, Woodstock has and always will be the most compelling event to wonder what type of experiences were held on those farm grounds. Woodstock gave us the hour-long lines to use a toilet and booze and drug inspired memories. Most importantly, it gave us the grimey yet unifying feeling of partying at a music festival with thousands of others. That sacred weekend in 1969 created an everlasting influence that will leave a permanent touch on music history. Woodstock 50th anniversary in August gives a select few the privilege to experience a portion of that special moment in history once more.
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