Billed as “three days of peace and music," The Woodstock Music and Art Fair began on August 15, 1969. Overall the event was considered a success despite many setbacks. On the 54th anniversary of the event, we explore the long list of interesting stories and facts from Woodstock.
Although it is difficult to accurately calculate, up to half a million people attended the “Aquarian Experience: 3 Days of Peace and Music,” held Friday, August 15 through Monday, August 18, 1969. Referred to as Woodstock, the event began when four men, all in their 20s, John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, Artie Kornfeld, and Michael Lang, were interested in an investment opportunity. Initially, they planned on starting a recording studio, which quickly transitioned into the music festival of the century.
Woodstock - interesting facts about the famed music festival
Originally set to take place in Woodstock, NY, the event actually took place 70 miles away in Bethel, where the festival was held on Max Yasgur’s 600-acre dairy farm. Reports claim Yasgur was paid between $50,000-$75,000 for the use of the farm.
Approximately 186,000 tickets were sold before the event began, with event organizers speculating that about 200,000 would show. The failure to set up ticket booths at the event site led to a free concert for those who showed up.
The event was almost shut down on the first day when performers asked for cash before they would perform. John Roberts, the heir to a pharmaceutical fortune, used his clout to procure a loan on a Saturday.
Event organizer Michael Long, in his book The Road to Woodstock, discussed the food vendors, which would run out of food for the attendees due to the unprecedented attendance.
""We originally thought locating a food vendor would be a no-brainer and that this would be a big profit center for us. As it turned out, the large food-vending companies like Restaurant Associates, which handled ball parks and arenas, didn't want to take on Woodstock. No one had ever handled food services for an event this size. They didn't want to put in the investment capital necessary to supply such a huge amount of food, on-site kitchens, and personnel, plus transport everything upstate. And what if we didn't draw the crowds we projected?""- Michael Long
Sadly, three people lost their lives at the festival. Two drug overdoses and one young man was run over by a tractor as he slept unnoticed in a mud-covered sleeping bag. There were over 5,000 medical cases, many due to drugs. Although there have been two births reported, this has never been confirmed.
It is reported that The Beatles bowed out of the event after the request to have Yoko Ono perform with them was denied. In an interview, Ringo Starr doesn't mention anything about Ono but says, “I think afterward we regretted it, which you always do. There were plans, we were going to fly in with a helicopter, just going to land. Anyway, it never got together.”
New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller declared a state of emergency for the site to bring supplies in. The US Army airlifted thousands of pounds of food, water, and medical supplies to the anti-Vietnam War crowd. Many attendees held signs and wore clothing denouncing the war.
Jimi Hendrix wouldn't take the stage until Monday, and many who attended the event missed his now iconic performance of the "Star Spangle Banner." The reason for this is his contract stated no one could play after him, and the entire festival schedule could not be followed, pushing Hendrix's performance to Monday morning.
Over 32 artists performed at Woodstock, and the website The Real Woodstock Story has the entire list of performers and the set lists for each.
This article is only a small sampling of the stories from Woodstock, one of the largest music festivals in history.
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