Sunday, August 16th, 2015

Noteworthy: Woodstock Begins On This Weekend in 1969



I recently discovered that a woman I know was at Woodstock because she’s been posting her photos all week on Facebook. (Despite there being an estimated half million people at the festival, I’ve never actually spoken to anyone who was there.) This quickly led me to realize that this weekend is the 46th anniversary of the historical festival.


Four of us set out on the morning of Friday, August 16, 1969—me, fresh out of the Navy: my college friend Phil: and our girlfriends, Karen and Mary…The festival began on the New York State Thruway, where every other car was packed with happy, long-haired kids flashing peace signs…We were well prepared, we thought. We had new sleeping bags and air mattresses, changes of clothes, dozens of sandwiches, jugs of wine and water… Everyone was feeling great. The music started…The sun shone. 

Then it rained. Everyone got wet..most of the time, it wasn’t that much fun. Any excursion was a major production. It took an hour to pick one’s way through the crowd to the Port-O-Sans and wait in line. It could take another hour to get back, during which, with mounting anxiety, one would become convinced that one’s friends were forever lost in the darkness. – from What Woodstock Was Really Like by Hendrik Hertzberg

The most famous account of the festival, is the bestseller Road to Woodstock from co-organizer Michael Lang: “[A] vivid and lively account of those hectic and historic three days….The best fly-on-the-wall account, tantamount to having had a backstage pass to an iconic event.” —New York Post

“On Max Yasgur’s six hundred acres, everyone dropped their defenses and became a huge extended family. Joining together, getting into the music and each other, being part of so many people when calamity struck — the traffic jams, the rainstorms — was a life-changing experience. None of the problems damaged our spirit. In fact, they drew us closer. We recognized one another for what we were at the core, as brothers and sisters, and we embraced one another in that knowledge.” – Michael Lang

Since the festival wasn’t expected to draw crowds larger than 50,000 there were very few reporters from outside the immediate area on the scene. Middletown, New York’s Times Herald-Record, the only local daily newspaper, editorialized against the law that banned the festival from Wallkill. (Wallkill Zoning Board of Appeals officially banned the concert on the basis that the planned portable toilets would not meet town code.) 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 impassable crowd to the newspaper’s office 35 miles (56 km) away in Middletown. (Per Wiki)

See a concise timeline of the festival here: The Woodstock Diaries and more good info here.

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