Youngsters and teens today usually ask, “Why was Woodstock so important? Was it just like another big music concert held today?”
Woodstock Festival in 1969 was no ordinary music festival. It also wasn’t just about hippies and campfires – it was a cultural milestone for Baby Boomers, the generation of the 1960’s, and for more than 400,000 people who stood together for things that important issues during that time period. The theme was “An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music” and it was held in a dairy farm near New York in August 1969. Due to rain on the last day, the festival was extended to four days.
Here are rare pictures that bring back the nostalgia and spirit of the Woodstock 1969! Hippies, vans painted with flowers, music, dancing, and look at the crowd!
Contrary to its name, the music festival was not held in Woodstock, New York. It was held at a dairy farm in Bethel, New York. Bethel is a small town in Sullivan County, 40 miles from Woodstock.
Here’s a picture of people setting up structures or camps for the festival, and one guy who happily jumped into a pile of hay.
Woodstock featured smoke camps where people met and shared stories. It was a music festival and also a gathering of people who were able to share their beliefs about society and life. The event has been called a social revolution.
It was said that organizers had problems with the venue after the permits were retracted a month before Woodstock was supposed to be held. The original venue was supposed to be at Woodstock, New York, hence the name of the festival. However, the residents of Woodstock didn’t want the festival to be held in their town. The organizers had to find another place, and there was another proposed venue but was also turned down by local residents. It was finally Max Yasgur who agreed to have the music event held on his farmland in Bethel, NY.
There were two major things that resonated through time that made the whole event legendary even for future generations – the Woodstock generation and the performances by the greatest musicians of the time.
The organizers originally thought attendance was going to be no more than 50,000 people, however, statistics estimate that over 400,000 people attended Woodstock. There were too many cars, vans and people coming in that the Bethel traffic enforcers didn’t bother to enforce any parking or traffic rules. With all the crowd, and the rainy weather, it was to avoid any start of chaos on the highway.
Imagine the crowd at that time. There was no Twitter or Facebook to spread the news, they just came. Radio stations tried to deter the crowd from going, but people walked side by side to reach the venue.
Who were the performers? Santana, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, Richie Havens, Joan Baez, and Sweetwater were there, along with other big artists in the 1960’s. There were a total of 32 acts spread across the festival’s 3 days. Richie Havens was the first to perform in the Woodstock Music Festival, followed by an opening speech by Swami Satchidananda.
Woodstock was a free concert. Initially the organizers thought that they had to build ticket booths and fences for promotions, but because of the crowd, that concept became just a formality in the event. What created the legendary event were the performers on stage and the nearly half million people who attended the festival.
The schedule for the musicians nearly went on continuously, with some artists who performed even past 2am. The lineup went from morning to afternoon. Creedence Clearwater Revival actually played at 3:30 am with nearly half a million people asleep in the field.
On the last day of the festival, everyone was awakened by guitarist and musician Jimi Hendrix’ s performance. His band was scheduled to be the closer of the festival as the last performance on Sunday, but had numerous delays. On Monday morning, even though the crowd had thinned and people were making their way back home, Hendrix played for two hours. One of the last songs of his set was his rousing and psychedelic version of the National Anthem, during which Hendrix criticized the current Vietnam War and political climate at the time. The performance was featured in the Woodstock movie, and a live recording became the CD, Live at Woodstock.
No one can forget the Woodstock generation. They were music lovers and hippies who traveled from different locations from all over just to attend this big music festival.
With the crowd that big, Sullivan County was declared under state of emergency at that time. That still didn’t stop people from coming, but everything was organized and peaceful. If you were one of the organizers of that big festival, you would assume a huge risk would come with such a massive crowd. There were officers from the nearby Stewart Air Force Base who assisted in keeping order within the festival and highways, and helped in managing transportation for the performing artists.
There was the Woodstock generation and the fashion that evolved around it. The fashion was mainly influenced by hippie trends back in those times. Think of tye-dyed shirts and pants, bohemian dresses, flower wreaths and peace pendants.
There were also yoga fans of Swami Satchidananda and practitioners who attended the Woodstock festival.
To fathom how big the crowd was, consider that this was the 1960’s and there was no online marketing back then, yet the whole festival became a milestone for that generation and history. There was other music festival that could compare to the support and that would embody the spirit of the 1960’s. At the festival, there were idealistic hopes of change and world peace, and overall, the festival was considered a success by many of the attendees. It was all about music, freedom, unity, peace, and stopping the war.