With the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock fast approaching, one can’t help but notice the proliferation of other events designed to attract both the “Original Woodstock Veteran” and the “Nouveau Hippie.” Take, for instance, the proposal for a three-day Music Festival in May, 2020, at a ranch situated between the very small … and very remote … high desert communities of Marfa and Fort Davis, Texas.
When local residents got wind of these plans, concerns were immediately raised about crowd size, availability of food and water, sanitation and public safety. In the face of this opposition, the promoter postponed the 2020 event, promising to reschedule only after a study of the possible effects a gathering of this sort might have on both communities.
A music festival in this lovely but desolate area presents an additional concern that has, so far, been overlooked … hippies who attended the original Woodstock in Bethel, New York, and who might be expecting a similar experience in Marfa and Fort Davis. For those intrepid souls, there are some important items to consider before loading up the VW minivan and heading out to deep west Texas:
Livestock During that memorable sojourn at Woodstock, many young folks climbed fences to interact with Max Yasgur’s gentle dairy cows. Deciding to do the same on a Texas ranch, though, is asking for trouble…. Longhorn cattle and Brahma bulls can be, well, unfriendly.
Crowd Size According to one estimate, 5,000 people were predicted to attend the west-Texas music festival. While this number would overwhelm Marfa, folks at Woodstock saw that many hippies lined up to use the pay phone at Artie’s Texaco station in White Lake, New York.
Skinny Dipping Swimming naked in farmers’ ponds was commonplace at Woodstock, but similar water sources do not exist on the high desert. Jumping into a rancher’s stock tank is not a good idea and, though the natural pool at Balmorhea is a mere 60 miles away, Texas park officials frown on anyone skinny dipping at this historic and family oriented site.
Environment Attendees at Woodstock walked barefoot in the grassy meadow, with trees nearby for shade. Those without shoes in the desert, though, will encounter ferocious local critters called Fire Ants. And when it comes to chilling under shade trees … forget it.
Traffic While traffic at Woodstock was gridlocked across the entire region, only a single two-lane highway connects Marfa and Fort Davis, and the closest commercial airports are either El Paso (190 miles) or Midland (180 miles). On the “up” side, the drive to this part of Texas provides a spectacular sort of desolate beauty, but be sure to keep your gas tank topped off.
Shopping While several small stores can be found in Marfa and Fort Davis, the nearest Walmart is in Fort Stockton (92 miles). Yes, there is a Prada Shoe store in Valentine, and a Target store east of Alpine, but these are both art installations … nice to contemplate, but nothing for sale.
Drug Use Pot smokers who enjoy gazing at the moon and stars are in luck … the McDonald Observatory is only a few miles away, where huge telescopes will enhance the experience. And for those who see odd, flashing lights in the dark, this is not an apparition or the result of a “bad trip” … the Marfa mystery lights are a genuine local phenomenon.
One last thought … Marfa is relatively close to the border between the US and Mexico and, as such, visitors driving in the area should not be surprised to encounter a Border Patrol check point. If this happens, an officer may ask occupants of the vehicle to state their citizenship … word of caution … if asked, do not answer: “Woodstock Nation!”