A music festival that could have been a disaster became iconic instead

Location: Hurd Rd, Swan Lake

The Woodstock Music and Art Festival was a rock music festival at Max Yasgur’s 600 acre (2.4 km²) dairy farm in the town of Bethel, New York from 15–18 August 1969. It might be the most famous rock concert and festival ever held. For many, it showed the counterculture of the 1960s and the «hippie era».

The festival was called «Woodstock», because the investment group that backed the concert was called «Woodstock Ventures.» It was originally planned for Saugerties, and then the Town of Wallkill, in Orange County (not to be confused with the Hamlet of Wallkill, in Ulster county). People in the Town of Wallkill, meaning those on the Town Board, quickly passed a law that required a permit to hold any gathering for over 5,000 people. A permit was applied for, but it was denied because the portable toilets proposed were considered to be inadequate. A Sullivan County farmer named Max Yasgur heard about the festival and the problems and offered his farm in the Town of Bethel. He was paid $10,000 for the three days.

Although all the municipalities were told there would be no more than 50,000, the organizers thought they would get as many as 150,000, and by best counts, there were more than three times that number over the three days. Most did not pay to get in, and the festival lost money as a result. The roads to the concert were jammed with traffic. People left their cars and walked for miles to get to the concert area. The weekend was rainy and overcrowded, and fans shared food, alcoholic drinks, and drugs. Some people who lived there, including those at nearby Camp Ma-Ho-Ge, gave blankets and food to some concert-goers.

After two days of rain, there was deep mud in many places. There was almost no water for washing, and not enough toilets. Many of the concert-goers had brought small tents to sleep in; some of these turned into piles of cloth and mud. Even though this may not have been the most comfortable place, the crowd kept up kindness and good cheer among themselves. As the half-million people in the audience became aware of this, a warm feeling of friendship spread to everyone.



Woodstock was held in the midst of a pandemic

In September 1968, the world suffered the A H3N2 virus pandemic, better known as "The Hong Kong Flu" because it began there. According to the American Journal of Public Health, the virus reached the highest peak of infections in December and January 1968 until the wave of infections ended in March 1969. During that period, schools and universities were closed and the virus ended up killing around 1 million people worldwide and 100,000 in the United States. Months later Woodstock would take place when it seemed that everything had been left behind but in November 69 a second wave of infections would arrive in the United States.

Woodstock was banned from its original site because of toilets.

Woodstock was conceived in early 1969 by a group of twenty-somethings: Artie Kornfeld, Michael Lang, Joel Rosenman, and John Roberts. In January of that year, the four men—Kornfeld and Lang as music industry vets and Rosenman and Roberts as venture capitalists who provided the financial backing— formed the company Woodstock Ventures, named for the New York town that Kornfeld and Lang were scouting to build a recording studio in. Woodstock had long been known as an artists' retreat about two hours north of New York City, and even has its own "Artists Cemetery" for a variety of creative types.

Most People Missed Jimi Hendrix's Iconic Moment

By the time Jimi Hendrix closed out the festival bright and early at 9:00 a.m. on Monday, August 17, the crowds had diminished to only about 25,000. His performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner," thankfully immortalized on film, remains one of the most legendary moments from the entire weekend.

It was not a cheap festival for the organizers

Jimi Hendrix was Woodstock's highest-paid performer, earning $18,000 (roughly $125,000 in 2019 dollars, accounting for inflation). Creedence Clearwater Revival, the first act booked, received $10,000. The Who received $6250 (although another report has them receiving $11,200) and Joe Cocker made a relatively paltry $1375. Sha Na Na got $750, while Quill was the most economic booking at $375.

Even the ice had acid in it

In 2009, the Who's John Entwistle told Billboard that he decided to drink a bourbon and Coke and realized that someone had spiked the ice with acid. The use of psychedelic drugs was estimated to have resulted in 25 "freak-outs" every hour the first night of the festival; emergency medical staff and members of a commune known as the Hog Farm sat with attendees until the drugs wore off.

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