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Woodstock Music & Art Fair (informally, Woodstock or The Woodstock Festival) was a music festival, billed as "An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music", held at Max Yasgur's 600-acre (2.4 km²; 240 ha, 0.94 mi²) dairy farm near the hamlet of White Lakemarker in the town of Bethel, New Yorkmarker, from August 15 to August 18, 1969. Bethel, in Sullivan Countymarker, is 43 miles (69 km) southwest of the town of Woodstock, New Yorkmarker, in adjoining Ulster County.

During the sometimes rainy weekend, thirty-two acts performed outdoors in front of 500,000 concert-goers. It is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most pivotal moments in popular music history and was listed among Rolling Stone's 50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock and Roll.

The event was captured in the successful 1970 documentary movie Woodstock, an accompanying soundtrack album, and Joni Mitchell's song "Woodstock" which commemorated the event and became a major hit for Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young.

Planning and preparation

Woodstock was initiated through the efforts of Michael Lang, John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, and Artie Kornfeld. It was Roberts and Rosenman who had the finances. They placed the following advertisement in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal under the name of Challenge International, Ltd.: “Young men with unlimited capital looking for interesting, legitimate investment opportunities and business propositions.”

Lang and Kornfeld noticed the ad, and the four men got together originally to discuss a retreat-like recording studio in Woodstock, but the idea evolved into an outdoor music and arts festival, although even that was initially envisioned on a smaller scale, perhaps featuring some of the big name artists who lived in the Woodstock area (such as Bob Dylan and The Band). There were differences in approach among the four: Roberts was disciplined, and knew what was needed in order for the venture to succeed, while the laid-back Lang saw Woodstock as a new, relaxed way of bringing business people together. There were further doubts over the venture, as Roberts wondered whether to consolidate his losses and pull the plug, or to continue pumping his own finances into the project.

In April 1969, newly-minted superstars Creedence Clearwater Revival were the first act to sign a contract for the event, agreeing to play for ten thousand dollars. The promoters had experienced difficulty landing big-name groups prior to the Bay Area swamp rockers committing to play. Creedence drummer Doug Clifford later commented "Once Creedence signed, everyone else jumped in line and all the other big acts came on." Given their 3 a.m. start time and non-inclusion (at Creedence frontman John Fogerty's insistence) in the Woodstock film, Creedence members have expressed bitterness over their experiences at the famed festival.

Woodstock was designed as a profit-making venture, aptly titled "Woodstock Ventures." It famously became a "free concert" only after it became obvious that the event was drawing hundreds of thousands more people than the organizers had prepared for. Tickets for the event cost US$18 in advance (equivalent to approx. US$105 in 2009 after adjusting for purchasing power, and US$75 after adjusting for inflation) and $24 at the gate for all three days. Ticket sales were limited to record stores in the greater New York City area, or by mail via a post office box at the Radio Citymarker Station Post Office located in Midtown Manhattan. Around 186,000 tickets were sold beforehand and organizers anticipated approximately 200,000 festival-goers would turn up.

Woodstock Ventures made Warner Bros. an offer to make a movie about Woodstock. All Artie Kornfeld required was $100,000, on the basis that "it could have either sold millions or, if there were riots, be one of the best documentaries ever made," according to Kornfeld.

Selection of the venue

The crowd and stage in 1969.
concert was originally scheduled to take place in the Mills Industrial Park ( ) in the town of Wallkill, New York, which Woodstock Ventures had leased for $10,000 in the Spring of 1969. Town officials were assured that no more than 50,000 would attend. Town residents immediately opposed the project. In early July the Town Board passed a law requiring a permit for any gathering over 5,000 people. On July 15, 1969 the Wallkill Zoning Board of Appeals officially banned the concert on the basis that the planned portable toilets would not meet town code. Reports about the ban, however, turned out to be a publicity bonanza for the festival.
Max Yasgur's farm in 1968.
According to Elliot Tiber in his 2007 book Taking Woodstock, Tiber offered to host the event on his motel, and had a permit for such an event. He claims to have introduced the promoters to dairy farmer Max Yasgur. Lang, however, disputes Tiber's account, and says that Tiber introduced him to a real estate salesman, who drove him to Yasgur's farm without Tiber. Sam Yasgur, Max's son, agrees with Lang's account. Yasgur's land formed a natural bowl sloping down to Filippini Pond on the land's north side. The stage would be set at the bottom of the hill with Filippini Pond forming a backdrop. The pond would become a popular skinny dipping destination.

The organizers once again told Bethel authorities they expected no more than 50,000 people.

Despite resident opposition and signs proclaiming, "Buy No Milk. Stop Max's Hippy Music Festival," Bethel Town Attorney Frederick W. V. Schadt and building inspector Donald Clark approved the permits, but the Bethel Town Board refused to issue them formally. Clark was ordered to post Stop Work orders, but the promoters tore them down.

"Free" concert

The late change in venue did not give the festival organizers enough time to prepare. At a meeting three days before the event organizers felt they had two options. One option was to improve the fencing and security which might have resulted in violence, the other involved putting all their resources into completing the stage which would cause Woodstock Ventures to take a financial hit. The crowd which was arriving in greater numbers and earlier than anticipated made the decision for them. The fence was cut the night before the concert by UAW/MF Family prompting many more to show up.

The festival

The influx of attendees to the rural concert site in Bethel created a massive traffic jam. Fearing chaos as thousands began descending on the community, Bethel did not enforce its codes. Eventually, announcements on radio stations as far away as WNEW-FM in Manhattan and descriptions of the traffic jams on television news programs discouraged people from setting off to the festival. Arlo Guthrie made an announcement that was included in the film saying that the New York State Thruway was closed. The director of the Woodstock museum discussed below said this never occurred. To add to the problems and difficulty in dealing with the large crowds, recent rains had caused muddy roads and fields. The facilities were not equipped to provide sanitation or first aid for the number of people attending; hundreds of thousands found themselves in a struggle against bad weather, food shortages, and poor sanitation.

On the morning of Sunday, August 17, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller called festival organizer John Roberts and told him he was thinking of ordering 10,000 New York State National Guard troops to the festival. Roberts was successful in persuading Rockefeller not to do this. Sullivan Countymarker declared a state of emergency.

"We were ready to rock out and we waited and waited and finally it was our turn... ...there were a half million people asleep. These people were out. It was sort of like a painting of a Dante scene, just bodies from hell, all intertwined and asleep, covered with mud.

And this is the moment I will never forget as long as I live: a quarter mile away in the darkness, on the other edge of this bowl, there was some guy flicking his Bic, and in the night I hear, "Don't worry about it John. We're with you." I played the rest of the show for that guy."

John Fogerty regarding Creedence Clearwater Revival's 3 a.m. start time at Woodstock.

Although the festival was remarkably peaceful given the number of people and the conditions involved, there were two recorded fatalities: one from what was believed to be a heroin overdose and another caused in an accident when a tractor ran over an attendee sleeping in a nearby hayfield. There also were two births recorded at the event (one in a car caught in traffic and another in a hospital after an airlift by helicopter) and four miscarriages. Oral testimony in the film supports the overdose and run-over deaths and at least one birth, along with many logistical headaches.

Yet, in tune with the idealistic hopes of the 1960s, Woodstock satisfied most attendees. There was a sense of social harmony, the quality of music, and the overwhelming mass of people, many sporting bohemian dress, behavior, and attitudes.

After the concert, Max Yasgur, who owned the site of the event, saw it as a victory of peace and love. He spoke of how nearly half a million people filled with possibilities of disaster, riot, looting, and catastrophe spent the three days with music and peace on their minds. He states that "if we join them, we can turn those adversities that are the problems of America today into a hope for a brighter and more peaceful future..."


Sound for the concert was engineered by Bill Hanley, whose innovations in the sound industry have earned him the prestigious Parnelli Award. "It worked very well", he says of the event. "I built special speaker columns on the hills and had 16 loudspeaker arrays in a square platform going up to the hill on 70-foot [21 meter] towers. We set it up for 150,000 to 200,000 people. Of course, 500,000 showed up." ALTEC designed 4 - 15 marine ply cabinets that weighed in at half a ton a piece, stood straight up, almost deep, and wide. Each of these woofers carried four JBL LANSING D140 loudspeakers. The tweeters consisted of 4x2-Cell & 2x10-Cell Altec Horns. Behind the stage were three transformers providing 2,000 amperes of current to power the amplification setup. For many years this system was collectively referred to as the Woodstock Bins.

Performing artists

Thirty-two acts performed over the course of the four days:

Friday, August 15

Saturday, August 16

Sunday, August 17 to Monday, August 18

Declined invitations

  • The Doors were considered as a potential performing band, but canceled at the last moment; according to guitarist Robby Krieger, they turned it down because they thought it would be a "second class repeat of Monterey Pop Festival", and later regretted that decision [6004]. Doors drummer John Densmore attended, however, and in the film he can be seen on the side of the stage during Joe Cocker's set.
  • Led Zeppelin were asked to perform, their manager Peter Grant stating: "We were asked to do Woodstock and Atlantic were very keen, and so was our U.S. promoter, Frank Barsalona. I said no because at Woodstock we'd have just been another band on the bill". Instead the group went on with their hugely successful summer tour, playing that weekend south of the festival at the Asbury Park Convention Hallmarker in New Jerseymarker. Their only time out taken was to attend Elvis Presley's show at the International Hotel in Las Vegas, on August 12.
  • Jethro Tull declined to perform. According to Ian Anderson, when his manager told him there would be lots of drugs, mud and hippies, he refused the invitation. Although Jethro Tull did not perform, their music was played over the public address system. In the film, during the interview with the promoters (where they are discussing how much money they will be losing on the venture), the songs "Beggar's Farm" and "Serenade to a Cuckoo", from the album This Was, can be heard in the background.
  • The Byrds were invited, but chose not to participate, not figuring Woodstock to be any different from all the other music festivals that summer. In addition, there were concerns about money. As bassist John York remembers: "We were flying to a gig and Roger [McGuinn] came up to us and said that a guy was putting on a festival in upstate New York. But at that point they weren't paying all of the bands. He asked us if we wanted to do it and we said, 'No'. We had no idea what it was going to be. We were burned out and tired of the festival scene. [...] So all of us said, 'No, we want a rest' and missed the best festival of all.'"
  • Tommy James and the Shondells declined an invitation. Lead singer Tommy James stated later: "We could have just kicked ourselves. We were in Hawaii, and my secretary called and said, 'Yeah, listen, there's this pig farmer in upstate New York that wants you to play in his field.' That's how it was put to me. So we passed, and we realized what we'd missed a couple of days later."
  • Bob Dylan was in negotiations to play, but pulled out when his son became ill. He also was unhappy about the number of hippies piling up outside his house near the originally planned site.
  • The Moody Blues were included on the original Wallkill poster as performers, but decided to back out after being booked in Paris the same weekend.
  • Spirit also declined an invitation to play, as they already had shows planned and wanted to play those instead, not knowing how big Woodstock would be.
  • Joni Mitchell was originally slated to perform, but canceled at the urging of her manager to avoid missing a scheduled appearance on The Dick Cavett Show.

Media coverage

Very few reporters from outside the immediate area were on the scene. During the first few days of the festival, national media coverage emphasized the problems. Front page headlines in the New York Daily News read "Traffic Uptight at Hippiefest" and "Hippies Mired in a Sea of Mud". Coverage became more positive by the end of the festival, in part because the parents of concertgoers called the media and told them, based on their children's phone calls, that their reporting was misleading.

The New York Times covered the prelude to the festival and the move from Wallkill to Bethel. Times reporter Barnard Collier, who reported on the event for the Times, has contended that he was pressured by nearly every editor at the paper to write a misleadingly negative article about the event. According to Collier, this led to acrimonious discussions and threats to refuse to write the article until the paper's executive editor, James Reston, agreed to let him write the article as he saw fit. The article he eventually wrote dealt with issues of traffic jams and minor lawbreaking, but went on to emphasize "peace" and "love" and the esprit de corps of the festival goers. After the festival was finished, Collier wrote another article about the exodus of fans from the festival and the surprising lack of violence at the event. The chief medical officer for the event and several local residents were quoted as praising the festivalgoers.

Middletown, New York'smarker Times Herald-Record, the only local daily newspaper, editorialized against the law that banned the festival from Wallkill. During the festival a rare Saturday edition was published. The paper had the only phone line running out of the site, and it used a motorcyclist to get stories and pictures from the impassible crowd to the newspaper's office 35 miles away in Middletown.

The film

The documentary film, Woodstock, directed by Michael Wadleigh and edited by Thelma Schoonmaker and Martin Scorsese, was released in 1970. Artie Kornfeld (one of the promoters of the festival) came to Fred Weintraub, an executive at Warner Bros., and asked for money to film the festival. Previously, Artie had been turned down everywhere else, but Fred Weintraub became his hero and, against the express wishes of other Warner Bros. executives, Weintraub put his job on the line and gave Kornfeld $100,000 to make the film. Woodstock helped to save Warner Bros at a time when the company was on the verge of going out of business. The book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls details the making of the film.

Wadleigh rounded up a crew of about 100 from the New York film scene. With no money to pay the crew, he agreed to a double-or-nothing scheme, in which the crew would receive double pay if the film succeeded and nothing if it bombed. Wadleigh strived to make the film as much about the hippies as the music, listening to their feelings about compelling events contemporaneous with the festival (such as the Vietnam War), as well as the views of the townspeople.

Woodstock received the Academy Award for Documentary Feature. The film has been deemed culturally significant by the United States Library of Congressmarker. In 1994, Woodstock: The Director's Cut was released and expanded to include Janis Joplin as well as additional performances by Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, and Canned Heat not seen in the original version of the film. In 2009, the film was re-released on DVD. This release marks the film's first availability on Blu-ray disc.

The albums

Two "soundtrack" albums were released. The first, Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack and More, was a 3-LP (later 2-CD) album containing a sampling of one or two songs by most of the acts who performed. A year later, Woodstock 2 was released as a 2-LP album. Both albums included recordings of stage announcements (e.g. "[We're told] that the brown acid is not specifically too good", "Hey, if you think really hard, maybe we can stop this rain") and crowd noises (i.e. the "rain chant") between songs. In 1994 a third album, Woodstock Diary was released. Tracks from all three albums, as well as numerous additional, previously-unreleased performances from the festival, but not the stage announcements and crowd noises, were reissued by Atlantic as a 4-CD box set titled Woodstock: Three Days of Peace and Music.

An album titled Jimi Hendrix: Woodstock also was released in 1994, featuring only selected recordings of Jimi Hendrix at the festival. A longer double-disc set, Live at Woodstock (1999) features nearly every song of Hendrix's performance, omitting just two pieces that were sung by his rhythm guitarist.

In 2009 complete performances from Woodstock by Santana, Janis Joplin, Sly & the Family Stone, Jefferson Airplane, and Johnny Winter were released separately by Sony BMG/Legacy, and were also collected in a box set entitled The Woodstock Experience. Also in 2009, Rhino Records issued a 6-CD box set, Woodstock: 40 Years On: Back to Yasgur's Farm, which includes further musical performances as well as stage announcements and other ancillary material.


Max Yasgur refused to rent out his farm for a 1970 revival of the festival, saying "As far as I know, I'm going back to running a dairy farm." Yasgur sold the farm in 1971 and died in 1973.

Bethel voters tossed out their supervisor in an election held in November 1969 because of his role in bringing the festival to the town. New York State and the town of Bethel passed mass gathering laws designed to prevent any more festivals from occurring. Attempts were made to prevent people from visiting the site, its owners spread chicken manure, and during one anniversary tractors and state police cars formed roadblocks. 20,000 people gathered at the site in 1989 during an impromptu 20th anniversary celebration. A local man put up a monument at the site, and in 1997 a community group put up a welcoming sign for visitors. Unlike in Bethel, the Town of Woodstock made several efforts to cash in on its notoriety. Bethel's stance changed in recent years, and the town now embraces the festival. Efforts have begun to forge a link between Bethel and Woodstock.

Approximately 80 lawsuits were filed against Woodstock Ventures. The movie financed the settlements and paid off Woodstock Ventures' $1.4 million dollars of debt it had incurred from the festival.

Woodstock site today

A plaque has been placed at the original site commemorating the festival. The field and the stage area remain preserved in their rural setting. On the field are the remnants of a neon flower and bass from the original concert. In the middle of the field, there is a totem pole with wood carvings of Jimi Hendrix in the middle, Janis Joplin on top, and Jerry Garcia on the bottom. A concert hall has been erected up the hill, and the fields of the old Yasgur farm are still visited by people of all generations.
Max Yasgur's Farm in 1999
In 1997, the site of the concert and surrounding was purchased by Alan Gerry for the purpose of creating the Bethel Woodsmarker Center for the Arts. The Center opened on July 1, 2006, with a performance of the New York Philharmonic. On August 13, 2006, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young performed to 16,000 fans at the new Center — 37 years after their historic performance at Woodstock.

The Museum at Bethel Woods opened in June 2008. The Museum contains film and interactive displays, text panels, and artifacts which explore the unique experience of the Woodstock festival, its significance as the culminating event of a decade of radical cultural transformation, and the legacy of the Sixties and Woodstock today.

Woodstock 40th anniversary

There was worldwide media interest in the 40th anniversary of Woodstock in 2009. A number of activities to commemorate the festival took place around the world. On August 15, at the Bethel Center for the Arts overlooking the original site, the largest assembly of Woodstock performing alumni since the original 1969 festival performed in an eight-hour concert in front of a sold-out crowd. Hosted by Country Joe McDonald, the event opened with 15-year-old guitarist Conrad Oberg, who re-created Jimi Hendrix’s The Star-Spangled Banner. The concert featured Big Brother and the Holding Company performing Janis Joplin's hits (she actually appeared with the Kozmic Blues Band at Woodstock, although that band did feature former Big Brother guitarist Sam Andrew), Canned Heat, Ten Years After, Jefferson Starship, Mountain and the headliners, The Levon Helm Band. At Woodstock, Levon Helm played drums and was one of the lead vocalists with The Band. Paul Kantner was the only member of the 1969 Jefferson Airplane line-up to appear with Jefferson Starship. Tom Constanten, who played keyboard with Grateful Dead at Woodstock, joined Jefferson Starship on stage for several numbers. Jocko Marcellino from Sha Na Na also appeared, backed up by Canned Heat. Richie Havens, who opened the Woodstock festival in 1969, appeared at a separate event the previous night.Crosby, Stills & Nash and Arlo Guthrie also marked the anniversary with live performances at Bethel earlier in August 2009.

Another event occurred in Hawkhurst, Kent (UK), at a Summer of Love party, with acts including two of the participants at the original Woodstock, Barry Melton of Country Joe and the Fish and Robin Williamson of The Incredible String Band, plus cover bands for Santana and the Grateful Dead.

Also in 2009, Woodstock creator, Michael Lang along with Holly George-Warren published The Road to Woodstock (Ecco/HarperCollins, © 2009 ). The book describes Lang's involvement in the creation of the Woodstock Music & Arts Festival and includes many personal stories and quotes from central figures involved in the event.


Image:Woodstock backstage.jpg|The Woodstock stage area facing sloping field at Bethel WoodsImage:Woodstockpla.jpg|Woodstock plaqueImage:Manwoodstocktoday.JPG|A man points to where the original stage stood in 1969

Taking Woodstock

Ang Lee's film Taking Woodstock follows the life of Elliot Tiber, who in 1969 held the only musical festival permit in Bethel, New York, and enabled the festival to occur. The Woodstock scenes in the movie were filmed in Columbia County, New York. The movie was released in most U.S. theaters on August 28, 2009.


  1. Michael Lang stated 300,000 attended, half did not have a ticket.
  2. CPI Conversion factors 1774 to est. 2018, in dollars of 1996
  3. Tiber, Elliot. "How Woodstock Happened... Part 1, Discoverynet, reprinted from The Times Herald-Record, Woodstock Commemorative Edition (1994)
  5. Tiber, Elliot. "How Woodstock Happened... Part 2, Discoverynet, reprinted from The Times Herald-Record, Woodstock Commemorative Edition (1994)
  6. McMillian, Jon. Garbage Guerrilla. New York Press
  7. A state police official said, "We're just going to reroute everybody; Sullivan County is filled up."
  8. Woodstock Film
  9. Bill Hanley: Father of Festival Sound
  10. Bill Hanley: The Father of Festival Sound
  11. Jerry Hopkins. Festival! The Book of American Music Celebrations. Macmillan Publishing 1970. New York. ISBN 0025801708
  12. { From Live Peace in Toronto to the Thin End of Wedgies in Soweto
  13. Liner notes to Tommy James and the Shondells: Anthology (album #R2 70920); compilation produced by Bill Inglot and Gary Peterson; Rhino Records Inc.; pp8&12.
  14. Liner notes on their album "Clear"
  15. Woodstock Now & Then VH1 and The History Channel 2009 Documentary
  16. "Reporting Woodstock: Some contemporary press reflections on the festival" by Simon Warner in Remembering Woodstock, edited by Andy Bennett (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2004).
  17. "How Woodstock Happened", Times-Herald Record and Elliot Tiber (1994). Reprinted by
  18. Romm, Ethel Grodzins. "Sex, Drugs, Rock 'N Roll in Redneck Country" (2009)
  19. "In His Own Words: The 'Record' on Woodstock"
  20. "Woodstock: Celebrating the 40th Anniversary"
  22. Woodstock at 40: A tale of two towns Times-Herald Record August 13, 2009
  23. Woodstock media frenzy as date draws closer Times-Herold Record August 13, 2009
  24. UK Summer of Love party
  25. Taking Woodstock on IMDb

Further reading

External links

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