When the organizers of Woodstock envisioned an outdoor concert, they wanted to go big and break a record set in Miami, Florida, that drew 40,000 concertgoers. They pre-sold 186,000 tickets, but more than double that amount showed up. Little did they know that their event in a tiny N.Y. town would become the most iconic music festival of all time.
A Girl & Her Pet Monkey Posing For A Photo
The Woodstock Music and Art Fair took place Aug. 15-17, 1969, in Bethel, New York, located in the Catskills Mountains. It was held on a 600-acre farm owned by dairyman Max B. Yasgur. Between 400,000 and 500,000 people attended. Peace and love was the theme, and despite so many people crowding into one area, no incidents of violence were reported.
Police did end up arresting 80 people; however, their offenses were largely drug-related (LSD, amphetamines, and heroin were popular ways to get high). Most of the concertgoers enjoyed smoking marijuana, but they were not apprehended for the act.
The Who Performed, But Bob Dylan Did Not
The original idea was not to have a music festival but to build a recording studio in Woodstock, New York. Several investors got together to create one in the community, which was known for the arts as well as famous musicians Bob Dylan, The Band, Jimi Hendrix, and more.
The investors switched course and planned a huge, outdoor rock concert instead. The name Woodstock was used because of its link to Bob Dylan, who didn’t actually play there. It’s unclear exactly why, but one of his children reportedly got sick and he may have gotten irritated after several hippies started congregating around his home in Woodstock.
Roads Were Blocked For Miles
Organizers of the festival were not prepared for the influx of people who attended. Many abandoned their cars after waiting too long in traffic and walked the rest of the way to the farm. Some people picked up hitchhikers and drove them in (and on top of) their vehicles. Woodstock Ventures, Inc. lost $1 million in revenue after spending $2.5 million for the festival but only collecting $1.5 million through ticket sales.
Organizers made their money back through film and music recordings. Thirty-three acts performed, including the Grateful Dead, Santana, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Joan Baez, The Who, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
Even The Featured Acts Got Stuck In Traffic
Max Yasgur loaned his farm to festival organizers for $75,000. Local residents tried to persuade Yasgur to pull out of the event, but he refused. When the festival started on Friday, Aug. 15, the first scheduled performer, Sweetwater, was late due to traffic.
Richie Havens took to the stage instead at 5 p.m. He played for several hours and wasn’t allowed to leave until another musical act arrived to replace him. When he ran out of original songs, he did some Beatles covers and made up the song “Freedom.” Organizers used an Army helicopter to fly in other performers and finally relieve Havens.
Santana Performed, But The Rolling Stones & Joni Mitchell Opted Out
The Rolling Stones were asked to perform at Woodstock, but they couldn’t make it for a couple of reasons. Mick Jagger was in Australia filming a movie called Ned Kelly, and Keith Richards and his then-girlfriend Anita Pallenburg had just welcomed a son in London.
Joni Mitchell’s manager, David Geffen, persuaded her not to perform because he wanted her ready for an upcoming appearance on The Dick Cavett Show. Ironically, she performed on the program with guests David Crosby and Stephen Stills, who did end up at Woodstock. Stranger still, Mitchell wrote the song “Woodstock” based on her boyfriend Graham Nash’s experiences there.
Festival-Goers Watched From Various Vantage Points
It must have been an incredible feeling for the performers to get on stage and look out to see hundreds of thousands of people watching them. A Scottish folk quartet called The Incredible String Band said their appearance on the Woodstock stage was something they would never forget.
They recalled: “It was incredibly high and three out of the four of us had vertigo. Little flimsy dresses on the girls, acoustic guitars out of tune, the drums damp from the tent, it was like playing off the Forth Bridge to this sea of people cooking beans in the mud.”
An Oscar-Winning Film About The Festival Was Edited By Martin Scorsese
This photo depicts a man named Michael Lang riding his motorcycle through a camping area. Festival organizer Artie Kornfeld had the foresight to make a deal with Warner Bros. Studio to film the festival for a documentary. Recent NYU film graduate Marin Scorsese was tapped to help with the editing.
A whopping 120 miles of footage was shot over three days. Scorsese and a team of others successfully chopped the footage down into a three-hour film. It ended up winning an Academy Award and was extremely profitable; however, Scorsese and the filmmakers didn’t make much money off of the project.
Blue Jeans Sold For $5, And A Food Stand Was Set On Fire
Some of the festival-goers were entrepreneurs. They sold a variety of items, from food to clothing. The man and woman in this photo were selling jeans for $5 as well as shirts, vests, tank tops, hats and other things–perfect hippie attire. It’s estimated there were 10 million yards of blue jeans and striped tees at the festival.
At one point, the Food For Love concession stand started running out of hamburgers. They increased the price from 25 cents to $1, and chaos ensued. People thought the capitalistic move was contrary to the festival’s purpose and burned it down.
Many Festival-Goers Left Before Hearing Jimi Hendrix
This picture shows two shirtless men sitting in a van painted like the American flag. Most festival-goers headed home before Woodstock’s most iconic star took the stage — Jimi Hendrix. He was promised $200,000 (adjusted for inflation) to play. As the headliner, he was contracted to be the final performer.
By Sunday, the schedule had been completely upended, and acts wound up playing much later than planned. It was too late for Hendrix to play on Sunday, so his performance was bumped to Monday at 9 a.m. At that point, most attendees had left, and they never heard his legendary version of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Festival-Goers Left A Mess Behind
Following the popularity of the 1969 event, many people pushed for the event to recur the following year. However, Yasgur had absolutely no interest in renting out the property again (and by the look of this photo, you can see why). The town of Bethel also put its foot down by enacting a law to prevent another Woodstock from taking place.
For the 25th anniversary, Woodstock ’94 was held in Saugerties, New York, about 10 miles from Woodstock. About 550,000 people attended, more than organizers predicted.