Woodstock celebrated its 50th anniversary in August of this year. In celebration of the festival’s 50th, the organization planned to host another festival, but unfortunately it was cancelled due to scheduling issues. The original 3 days of peace and music festival can be remembered as one of the greatest moments in music history. It brought together half of a million people in one location and the stage served as a platform for some popular artists including: The Doors, Jimi Hendricks, Janis Joplin, Grateful Dead, Crosby, Nash & Young, and many others.
During the sixties, the counterculture at the time was the hippie movement. This was young individuals who push against society’s way of living. Most of these young adults wanted to break free from the expectations of doing what their parents did for a living. This counterculture fought for peace and did not believe in wars, despite their parents having a more nationalistic point of view from World War II. They advocated that the war in Vietnam should end immediately and that the draft system was unfair. That is why today hippies are associated with love and peace. During this time, the Black Panther Party was formed to fight against the unjust racial system in the US.
A way to escape these expectations, the hippies would often listen to rock and roll, enjoy a new wave of art, and partake in drugs. Musicians would write songs that reflected these ideas of the counterculture. A new style of art was created, such as psychedelic art. The Woodstock festival was created by Michael Lang, Artie Kornfeld, Joel Rosenman, and John P. Roberts.
The original spot for the festival was planned for Wallkill, New York. However, after the town caught news that the festival had already sold over 50,000 tickets, the city council no longer wanted that many hippies in their town. Desperate search for another location and running out of time, the producers settled on Max Yasgur’s dairy farm in Bethel, New York. With about four weeks left until the concert, construction workers work day and night in attempt to finish the stage. Three days before the festival, attendees started to arrive. The producers hadn’t built the fence yet and sacrificed this in order to finish the stage. As more and more people arrived, the festival had no way to collect tickets due to the lack of a fence. The festival had overall sold roughly 150,000 tickets, but over 500,000 people showed up. Because there were cars parked everywhere, most of the artists had to be flown in by helicopter.
The producers hired a hippie commune group to act as security by spreading messages of love and peace. They were also responsible for taking care of the sick or individuals who were having a bad trip from psychedelics. This group set up tents, which allowed people have a safe place until the effects of the drugs wore off. This hippie commune also brought a large amount of marijuana to sell. They even had small shops to sell handmade bongs.
The festival not only had music for its attendees, but also food trucks and outside art galleries. The food trucks had only anticipated the 150,000 people projected to come. By Saturday morning of the festival, most of the food was gone. The community of Bethel begin to donate goods from their pantries to feed to attendees. The art galleries were little shops that sold handmade art for cheap.
Although this festival is seen as the greatest music fest in history, there were some complications that manifested throughout that weekend. The food supply ran out by Saturday morning, the porta potties were full as well which lend to people relieving themselves wherever, and many people started to get sick from dehydration. There was a lake on the property that many people bathed in. The hundreds and thousands of cars blocking all streets prevented any police or paramedics to enter the festival. The US’s military had to bring doctors into the festival by helicopter, and flight for life the extremely sick attendees. The only way to communicate to the crowd for emergencies or people needing to find a group/family member was that in between each performer they would have announcements.
The Woodstock music festival will forever be known in history as the greatest music fest. The sixties were greatly influenced by the counterculture to challenge the systemic ideas of the US. Although the 50th anniversary of Woodstock didn’t receive another concert, maybe it is best to reflect on the history of why Woodstock should be celebrated. The current organization, Woodstock Ventures, still works to collaborate with big or small communities working to make the world a better place.