Written by Michele Wheat
The decade of the 1960's was one of the most turbulent times in history. With the war in Vietnam, civil rights movement, protests and assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, this decade was the decade of civil change in the world. It was also a decade where people were able to express themselves musically in different fashions. All these factors came together on a rainy August weekend in New York State. A music and culture festival was planned for a farm that has become known simply as Woodstock.
The Woodstock Music Festival was the brain child of four entrepreneurs from New York City who had previously put on a smaller festival in Miami that was a success. The group went about planning an event in the Woodstock, New York area which was a popular retreat for many musicians. With financing in place, they began to reach out to musicians to perform at the event, and with acts such as Creedence Clearwater Revival agreeing, many others started to sign on.
The biggest setback was finding a venue to host the event. Original plans called for the festival to be held in Wallkill, New York. However, when they could not secure the location, the organizers tried for a location in Saugerties, New York. This too proved to be a problem, and the organizers then found the town of Bethel, New York to be receptive to hosting a festival, with a 50,000 attendance maximum. The land for the festival ended up being a 600-acre dairy farm owned by Max Yasgur.
With a site secured, and an outstanding list of performers signed on, the promoters began selling tickets for the three-day event for $18 in advance ($24 at the gate). The response was outstanding and about 180,000 advance tickets were sold. However, August 15, 1969 saw a tremendous response from people wanting to attend the festival. The overwhelming response clogged the overmatched roads and highways leading to the venue, making the traffic come to a standstill. In addition, the festival site was not prepared for the throngs of people and the fencing surrounding the location and many people were able to go over, around of through the fences.
While the music festival had many operational flaws, and with the weather not cooperating by turning the festival into a mud pit, the music was memorable. Performers such as Joan Baez, The Grateful Dead, The Who, Jimi Hendrix and many more provided festival goers with a soundtrack of the sixties.
While Woodstock had a number of operational problems, it became one of the first major music festivals, and was setting the bar for future events that are still held today. To learn more about this historic event, feel free to read more about it.