Woodstock poster

Perhaps the most famous countercultural event in history, the Woodstock Music and Art Fair dropped 500,000 hippies, musicians, artists, dropouts and other curious folks on an old dairy farm a few hours north of New York City for three days (August 15, 16, & 17) of peace and music. The last bedraggled fan sloshed out of Max Yasgur's muddy pasture more than 25 years ago. That's when the debate began about Woodstock's historical significance. True believers still call Woodstock the capstone of an era devoted to human advancement. Cynics say it was a fitting, ridiculous end to an era of naivete. Then there are those who say it was just a hell of a party.

The Woodstock Music and Art Fair in 1969 drew more than 500,000 people to a pasture in Sullivan County. For four days, the site became a countercultural mini-nation in which minds were open, drugs were all but legal and love was “free”. The music began Friday afternoon at 5:07pm August 15 and continued until mid-morning Monday August 18. The festival closed the New York State Thruway and created one of the nation’s worst traffic jams. It also inspired a slew of local and state laws to ensure that nothing like it would ever happen again.

Woodstock, like only a handful of historical events, has become part of the cultural lexicon. As Watergate is the codeword for a national crisis of confidence and Waterloo stands for ignominious defeat, Woodstock has become an instant adjective denoting youthful hedonism and 60’s excess. “What we had here was a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence,” said Bethel town historian Bert Feldman. Gathered that weekend in 1969 were liars and lovers, prophets and profiteers. They made love, they made money and they made a little history. Arnold Skolnick, the artist who designed Woodstock’s dove-and-guitar symbol, described it this way: “Something was tapped, a nerve, in this country. And everybody just came.”

As Woodstock began to fade into legend in the early ?70s, the Town of Wallkill was tagged as the hometown of the uptight, much to the consternation of Wallkill Supervisor Schlosser. Wallkill was only trying to protect itself from a horde it was not prepared to handle, he said. Besides, added Schlosser, who retired from politics in 1984, the promoters lied to the town, and that’s never mentioned in Woodstock lore. “That is what bugs me about this whole thing, “ Schlosser said in 1989. “They have been allowed to perpetuate that myth for 20 years… “

For years, no one celebrated Woodstock’s anniversary, and Augusts came and went without notice. People who wanted to stop by Yasgur’s farm and reminisce weren’t always sure they were at the right place.

In the late ?70s, a ragtag bunch started celebrating every August with a three-day party. Around 1978, a welder named Wayne Saward came out for the party. “And it was, like, super-quiet,” he recalled. “There’d be 30 people there, at most. And that was in the middle of the night. Then in 1984, Saward started, pretty much alone, to build the world’s only monument to the event. It’s a 5 1/2 ton marker made of cast iron and concrete; landowner Louis Nicky paid $650 for concrete and casting the iron. Once the marker went up, the site became a kind of counterculture shrine. Visitors started showing up randomly, staying for a few minutes, trying to re-capture the
“Woodstock Spirit” with the camer, and then leaving.

500,000 young citizens were virtually left on their own and discovered the words Sharing, Helping, Consideration, and Respect to be very powerful. Thousands left the Woodstock event with a totally different outlook on life.

The musicians of Woodstock festival and concert
Joan Baez
Arlo Guthrie
Tim Hardin
Incredible String Band
Ravi Shankar
Richie Havens
Sly and the Family Stone
Bert Sommer
Canned Heat
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Jefferson Airplane
The Who
Grateful Dead
Keef Hartley Band
Blood, Sweat and Tears
Crosby, Stills & Nash (&Young)
Jeff Beck Group
The Band
Ten Years After
Johnny Winter
Jimi Hendrix
Janis Joplin
Joe Cocker
John Sebastian
Country Joe and the Fish
Paul Butterfield Blues Band