This is the way to hear music, I think, surrounded by rolling hills and farmlands, under a big sky.
– Michael Lang (Co-creator of the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival)
As promised… here’s the next installment of our Woodstock Wander in Mid-July. How can it be almost mid-August already?
Wednesday morning was THE day. We were finally going to visit the site of THE Rock Concert of all time! To say we were excited, is to put mildly. Two Fifty-somethings all a-giggle, I tell ya… By now we have watched countless videos about Woodstock, totally immersed ourselves into the whole experience as much as two born-too late-to-have-been-there peeps could be. (And if we had been there, would have been too young to remember and would have had beyond-cool (or crazy) parents… Just sayin’). One hour, some 60-ish miles away. I swear, we are still trying to wrap our heads around a Woodstock that never took place in Woodstock. I think B’s wonderful intro post to our adventure says it best here.
But first, we needed sustenance. I had brought my crêpe mix so of course I had to make those. But then, I pimped ’em up. We needed to fuel up, after all! A little bacon, some Swiss cheese and a fried egg on top was sure to do the trick – add to that some Québec maple syrup and we had ourselves a breakfast of champions…
No matter how many videos we had watched – and we watched many there (not to mention tons more since our return), we were still amazed to drive through the winding country roads towards Bethel. We tried to imagine all those thousands of cars simply left willy-nilly to block the road for three, almost four, days. Insane. Did you know that 37 rental cars were lost? Thirty-seven!! Just one of those little snippets of information discovered…
We finally get to our destination…
… and there are huge, I mean HUGE parking lots… now 😉 We chose a shady area to park the car and made our way to the main building. How did I manage to NOT take a picture of the outside? I dunno… So I have nabbed the one on the site…
I don’t know how to explain the myriad emotions this place evoked. Maybe it was just us. But I don’t think so. Maybe we had created an expectation by reading about it, seeing movies, documentaries, listening to the music. While neither one of us had this destination at the top of our bucket lists, we were still thrilled and awed that our desire to meet had directed us to this place. Just how did the Universe sneakily direct us here? Our love of music, culture and history might have had something to do with it. Whatever it was that did bring us here, we felt we were on hallowed ground. Or we gave it that descriptive.
Or maybe, just maybe, we each have a little Hippie in our Hearts.
We purchased our tickets and entered, looking forward to – we had no idea what!
“We were ready to rock out and we waited and waited and finally it was our turn … there were a half million people asleep. These people were out. It was sort of like a painting of a Dante scene, just bodies from hell, all intertwined and asleep, covered with mud.
And this is the moment I will never forget as long as I live: A quarter mile away in the darkness, on the other edge of this bowl, there was some guy flicking his Bic, and in the night I hear, ‘Don’t worry about it, John. We’re with you.’ I played the rest of the show for that guy.
—John Fogerty recalling Creedence Clearwater Revival’s 3:30 am start time at Woodstock”
There were so many things to see, notes to read, we could have stayed in there for hours on end.
It’s funny… I didn’t take the picture of the sign explaining the fence but felt this other sign said it all. This concert was going to be way bigger than anyone could have anticipated (Imagine how parties have gotten out of hand with the advent of Facebook? Could you even imagine?) People were not going to let some fence stop them from getting in… Might as well give in. And they did! In the name of peace. And debt.
The useless fence
It’s free, man…
So many details, so many stories, so many things to see!
There is a small theatre within the museum that shows a 20-minute movie about the event. So, of course, we watched it!
So many acts played in those three days, that spilled into part of the fourth. Sha Na Na? Really? John B. Sebastian wasn’t even scheduled to play. He was a “filler” and, according to Ira Brooker from “A Talent for Idleness” Sebastian was the ultimate hippie. I dig, I dig. And, I didn’t know him. And now I do.
Time to go outside and see just where this party took place.
The grounds around the museum are beautiful and a stroll was in order.
Though he never made a sound, I could sense B was itching to get to the site itself and I quickly snapped a couple more pics before joining him.
I don’t know why I never realised how much of a hill it was! You see the pictures and there are masses of people but somehow, I just never focused on the terrain itself. This sign gives you such a perspective of the size when you are in front of the field. I purposefully left just a smidge of said sign in the second pic showing the road (we felt it would be disrespectful to walk on the grass itself – at that time, anyway!) we took to get down to the bottom to show you a portion of it.
As we made our way down, we could see, right in the middle of the field, a huge Peace sign cut into the grass (like a crop circle 😉 ) Too bad they have been suffering from lack of rain because it is a tad difficult to see, no matter how much I enhanced it.
We, of course, went to the official memorial monument (which bizarrely is NOT where the stage was…)
The stage is left of and further down from the marker when looking up the hill. It was confusing to us at first but then I could see the demarcation of the sort of square where the stage was.
Standing on the “stage”, looking up I could not imagine 500,000 people. I’m sure the 600 acres Max Yasgur rented out spilled out beyond… Plus, I do not have a wide lens… but still. It takes your breath away.
I’m a farmer. I don’t know how to speak to twenty people at one time, let alone a crowd like this. But I think you people have proven something to the world–not only to the Town of Bethel, or Sullivan County, or New York State; you’ve proven something to the world. This is the largest group of people ever assembled in one place. We have had no idea that there would be this size group, and because of that, you’ve had quite a few inconveniences as far as water, food, and so forth. Your producers have done a mammoth job to see that you’re taken care of… they’d enjoy a vote of thanks. But above that, the important thing that you’ve proven to the world is that a half a million kids–and I call you kids because I have children that are older than you–a half million young people can get together and have three days of fun and music and have nothing but fun and music, and I God Bless You for it!
— addressing the crowd at Woodstock on August 17, 1969
Peace and Love…
We made our way back to the car, our souvenirs in hand (of course I got a Tye-died shirt) with new memories created and oh-so happy we had made the trek. We may have missed out on actually being part of the whole Woodstock experience 49 years earlier, but walking those grounds sure brought us closer to the feeling that we would have fit right in.
Joni Mitchell didn’t make it either, but all say she captured the feeling exactly. I was torn between the video where Joni explains why she wasn’t there – with a little catch in her voice – or the one she did right after the concert… So I put both!