With the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock just around the corner, officials at the Watkins Glen, NY, Raceway reversed their decision to host Michael Lang’s Woodstock 50 extravaganza; state and county permits remain unapproved; financial underwriters have bolted; partners are battling among themselves; and tickets have not yet been made available for sale.
In other words, planning for this shindig is right on schedule.
Thinking back to 1969, the task of finding a site for the festival was a major challenge as well. Several communities had rejected Lang and his associates until, with less than a month to go, Max Yasgur stepped forward and offered the use of his dairy farm in Bethel, NY, as the venue … and the rest is history. Similar to the current fiasco, ancillary issues like funding, ticket sales and security were in complete disarray in 1969 and, ultimately, Lang and his associates had no alternative except to make the original Woodstock a free event.
Unfortunately, Max Yasgur passed away in 1973, so organizers cannot call upon him for help this time around. Somewhere in the bucolic reaches of upstate New York, though, must live a farmer willing to step into the breach. The dairy industry has been in decline in New York State for several years so, at the very least, hosting an event like this might be a good way to scare up a few extra dollars. On the other hand, Yasgur’s experiences in 1969, should provide fair warning that any farmer thinking of renting out pastureland for this event should have:
- An exceptionally high threshold for stress and aggravation;
- The ability to withstand scorn and ostracism from neighbors;
- A willingness to endure extensive damage to livestock and property.
Despite being anointed a cult hero, even Max Yasgur decided that one Woodstock Festival was more than enough … he turned down the opportunity to host a reunion in 1970. In addition, he received a financial settlement that helped cover the costs associated with the near total destruction of his dairy farm.
While our initial plans had us in Bethel on the actual dates of the 50th Anniversary, my wife and I have decided, instead, to take a quieter and less chaotic trip down memory lane. In early August we will visit the beautifully tended meadow where Woodstock was actually held … we will tour, once again, the spectacular Museum at Bethel Woods … and we will have our picture taken at the Tomb of the Unknown Hippie.
In 1969, a multitude of young folks descended on Woodstock to experience an amazing array of performers pushing the boundaries of a tumultuous time in American history … Joan Baez … Richie Havens … Joe Cocker … Arlo Guthrie. Few of those hardy stalwarts are around any more so, fifty years later, aging hippies with plans to sample the musical wares at Woodstock 50 should be prepared to shell out some $400 to hear Miley Cyrus … Soccer Mommy … and Amigo the Devil.
Yes, time is running short, but Michael Lang assures us there is nothing to worry about … he will pull something together.
After all, he did exactly that in 1969.
And we know how that turned out.