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Woodstock "The Experience"

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The Experience of Being at Woodstock

The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Arlo Guthrie, Joe Cocker, Credence Clearwater Revival, The Who, and even the great Jimi Hendrix were just some of the artists who played play at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair that took place from August 15 to August 18, 1969. People from all over the country heard about the all star line-up and could not help but pack up their clothes and friends and head for Max Yasgur’s 600 acre dairy farm in Bethel New York where the festival was to be held. The number of festival-goers was largely underestimated as nearly 400,000 people were in attendance. One of the festival coordinators said it best when he stated:

“This culture and generation, away from the old culture and older generation and you see how they function on their own without cops, without guns, without clubs, without hassle. Everybody pulls together and everybody helps each other and it works. It’s been working since we got here. And it’s going to continue working no matter what happens when they go back to the city, this thing happened. And it proves that it can happen.” (Film:

As the masses began to travel to Bethel, New York, for the festival it soon became apparent that more people were showing up than expected. When attendants finally hit the traffic jam on Route 17b the party atmosphere was already in the air. The immense traffic jam allowed people to ride on the hoods of cars and joke back and forth between vehicles. Many people thought that they were near the camp sites and stage when they came upon jammed roads, mass number of parked cars and pedestrians; but you could have walked for seven miles just to get there depending upon when one arrived at the event. An old man, who was a resident of Bethel, said “I was here when this crowd really came. We expected fifty thousand a day and there must have been a million.” The man also said “This thing was too big. It was too big for the world! Nobody has ever seen a thing like this! And when they see this picture in the news, over the moving pictures they’ll really see something.” One of the people in attendance said:

“It’s really amazing. Yet it looks like some kind of Biblical, epochal, unbelievable scene! They’re all, you know, like all… you see these cars, they’re like strewn on the sides of the roads from the helicopters and in all different angles, you know. They look like jack-straws and stuff like that. There is just continual flow of people just riding the stream.”

There was a great deal of controversy at first concerning the massive and ever-growing crowd. So many people had arrived at the festival that tickets couldn’t possibly be used anymore. Since hippies and other people participating in the counterculture at the time were coming from all over and gathering in one place it was now evident that the movement was much larger and stronger than people had previously believed. The crowd had torn down the fence surrounding the campgrounds. The event coordinators realized that the festival was not planned with this many people in mind, so improvising to accommodate the masses was the new plan. The concert, which had previously cost eighteen dollars to attend, was now free for the weekend. The fact that the event was happening successfully was enough to make the coordinators happy even though they faced a financial disaster. A man on stage announced over the microphone:

“This is one thing that I was going to wait a while before we talked about it. Maybe we’ll talk about it now so you can think about it. It’s a free concert from now on! That doesn’t mean that anything goes. What that means is we’re going to put the music up here for free. What it means is the people who are backing this thing who put up the money for it, are going to take a bit of a bath. A big bath. There’s no hype, that true. They’re going to get hurt. But what it means is these people have it in their heads that your welfare is a hell of a lot more important and so is the music, than a dollar.”

Setting up camp was one of many tricky ordeals that had to be achieved. With over 400,000 people in attendance and no way of communication, except having an announcement read over the microphone, the location of where one’s camp was vital knowledge. The possibility of becoming separated from your group or just getting lost was very real. People often times spent hours just trying to locate friends or their camp. Everybody at the festival showed a great amount of kindness and love towards each other as little to no violence was reported. One man at the festival said:

“Periodically, we’d get up and move around a bit, and you’d see lots of happy smiling people, just diggin’ it. People were experiencing the joyful feeling of getting back to nature; others were considering dropping out of step in a culture imprisoned by its own conservatism. Idealism was in the air and maybe what was happening at Woodstock would spread and a quiet revolution of sorts would take place, disinvolving the US from unnecessary war in Vietnam.”

Everyone worked together to provide the basic needs for each other. A man who was interviewed on the topic said, “Nobody worries. Nobody up here has any money. You could eat and live here a week without money, so don’t worry about it.”

Once people had established camp it was time to start the festivities. Thousands of blankets were laid out over the lawn of the dairy farm; each one covered with a group people enjoying the festival. A middle eastern man came on stage and addressed the crowd saying:

“America leads the whole world in several ways. Very recently when I was in the East, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi met me and asked me what’s happening in America? And I said “America is becoming a whole. America is helping everybody in the material field, but the time has come for America to help the whole world with spirituality, also.”

The counterculture “hippie” movement of the time included smoking pot, tripping, and doing whatever they could, even using yoga, to get high. The hippies decided that they were going to remodel society when the old corrupt version failed. The use of drugs presented a new way to view the world while at the same allowed them to rebel and not be a part of the culture in which they no longer trusted. Without a doubt the festival was the largest



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