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Woodstock Fun Facts
Between August 15 and August 18, 1969, the most celebrated music festival in history took place in upstate New York. At a time when Americans were deeply divided, over 400,000 young people from across the country gathered for “three days of peace and music” that instantly became a symbol of an entire generation. Here are some facts about the Woodstock Music and Art Fair.
The Woodstock festival wasn’t held in Woodstock. The organizers had wanted to hold the festival in the namesake village, but they could not find an available location that was large enough for the anticipated 100,000 people. They leased some land at an industrial park near Middletown, New York (in the town of Wallkill), secured the required permits, and began advertising the festival to be held at Wallkill. With only a month remaining before the August 15 festival start date, the permits were revoked, and Woodstock Ventures was forced to find another location. They were shown an alfalfa field with a natural “bowl” shape in the town of Bethel, and they quickly negotiated with the owner, Max Yasgur, to have their festival there. In one month, the promoters got the word out about the venue change, issued new posters and advertising, and constructed the festival site from scratch.
The Town of Bethel and the surrounding communities were not prepared for the crowds that arrived for the festival. By Thursday, August 14, with the stage still not completed and fences only partially up, the concert field had over 50,000 fans ready for the weekend’s excitement.
The festival officially began after 5pm on Friday, August 15, when Richie Havens took the stage, and did not end until mid-morning on the following Monday when Jimi Hendrix completed his set.
Jimi Hendrix played what many consider to be the festival highlight on Monday, August 18, when only about 35,000 people—a small fraction of the total Woodstock audience—remained on the field.
Some local residents were unhappy that the festival was happening in their town, but others welcomed the young festival-goers with open arms, supplying them with free food and water when the Food For Love concessions ran out.
The Hog Farm, a commune from Taos, New Mexico, was flown in by festival organizers to set up a campground. They soon found themselves assisting with security, staffing a “freak out” tent to help attendees with bad trips, and opening a free kitchen to feed the crowds.
First aid at the festival was provided by volunteer doctors, nurses, and EMTs who set up a field hospital near the stage. The medical teams tended to minor injuries, food poisoning, and an epidemic of cut feet (so many bare feet…).
There were two deaths at the festival. A teenager who was sleeping near Hurd Road was run over by a tractor, and another teenager died in a local hospital from injuries suffered in a drug-induced fall.
There have been no credible claims of anyone actually born at the festival, despite stage announcements that are heard in the Woodstock film and its soundtrack album. Evidence suggests that one baby was born enroute to the festival and a second baby was born at a local hospital after its mother was airlifted out of the festival. According to popular tradition, countless children were conceived at the festival.
At least three theatrical movies include significant references to the Woodstock festival. The 1970 Michael Wadleigh documentary, Woodstock, won the Best Documentary Academy Award that year (and there have been several re-releases such as Woodstock: The Director's Cut). A 1999 film starring Diane Lane and Viggo Mortensen, A Walk on the Moon, features the festival as a key event. And Ang Lee's 2009 romp, Taking Woodstock, paints the festival history with a broad brush.
Some festival attendees look on their Woodstock experience as an adventure that changed their lives. Others found it nothing but a muddy, disorganized debacle. No matter what their opinion, Woodstock was undeniably unforgettable.