“I don’t know who I am, but you know life is for learning”, Joni Mitchell
It’s tough to describe the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival, which began on Friday, August 15th 1969, and ended Sunday, August 17th, 1969, because its greatest features were intangible. On the surface, there were a half million people, listening to music, in a 600 acre field. Most of those people were not prepared for the (Saturday) rain, which turned the field into mud, and were wearing wet clothing. Some people took their wet clothes off, and wandered around naked. Very few people had any food with them. There were a few food stands, but they were overwhelmed by the crowd, and ran out of food almost immediately. The Hog Farm distributed most of the food that was available, as well as providing security, with cream pies and seltzer bottles.
I have forgotten many of the details over the years, but I will never forget Woodstock’s greatest features: peace and love.
Weren’t there a lot of drugs?
The Woodstock Music and Arts Festival of 1969, should be remembered for the drugs which were not available. I don’t recall seeing any liquor or hard drugs. I remember a few people drinking wine, because it was offered to me, and I remember having a cup of wine. I don’t remember seeing any beer after Friday, when the supply at the concession stands was exhausted.
The paucity of alcohol, and the lack of hard drugs, were the two greatest factors of Woodstock’s success. Imagine a city of a half million people without any whiskey or crack.
If you would like to learn more about the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival of 1969, check out the Woodstock Preservation Archives (PDF).
Jayne and I celebrated Woodstock’s anniversary in 1990. We brought our three and five year olds to Bethel, and camped on a 40 acre parcel of Max Yasgur’s farm, which has been liberated. We were joined by a few hundred other folks, mostly families, for a delightful weekend. Several talented musicians also showed up, and entertained us with intimate, unamplified, extemporaneous sets.
The biggest annoyance came on Friday night, when a bunch of locals, armed with cases of beer, arrived. Thankfully, they left on Saturday morning, and peace was restored.
My high expectations of the 60’s are gone. I thought that marijuana would be legal in year or two. I thought that Eugene McCarthy would be President. I was sure that the “military–industrial complex” would break down in the next few years. I was positive that America would have colonized Mars, and cured cancer, long before the 21st century ever started.
Back To Bethel
I’m driving to Bethel next week, with my now 20–year–old daughter Audrey, to hang out for a couple of days. I expect to meet a few people who also attended the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival in 1969. People, who also expected honest governments, and world peace. People who shared my dreams of the 60’s. I expect to share a little peace and love with them too.
But once I leave Bethel, I don’t expect anything at all.