Jun 27, 2016

Revisiting Woodstock Music Event

On a recent shopping trip I was surprised to see designs that reminded me of the 60s: bold, bright circles and flowers. Some clothing styles are back in style: strapless prom dresses and low-slung pants – once called hip huggers. The senate sit-in brought to mind what a turbulent time it was during the 60s and 70s. What was old is new again – or so it seems.

It is amazing how tumultuous times fade with time. The year before Woodstock is called “1968: A Year That Shook America.” During that year there was the TET Offensive, Vietnam War protests, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, presidential conventions, and man’s first visit to the Moon. Woodstock was a gathering of young people who wanted to escape to a peaceful place and listen to music. And they did. Thirty-two well-known music groups played to a crowd of more than 500,000 – sometimes in the rain. 

The Museum at Bethel Woods tells the story of the Woodstock
Music Festival and puts it in historical perspective. The small village of Woodstock was the promoter’s first choice but local citizens raised such a fuss about a three-day invasion of “hippies” that the venue was changed to Wallkill and again the local citizens raised a fuss.  Finally, a farmer in Bethel offered his 600-acre dairy farmland for the event.  The conservative Max Yasgur convinced the local town board to issue the necessary permits by saying, “Look, the reason you don’t want them here is because you don’t like what they look like and I don’t particularly like what they look like either.  But, that is not the point.  They may be protesting the war, but thousands of American soldiers have died so they can do exactly what they are doing.  That’s what the essence of the country is all about.” 

The museum puts the Woodstock Festival into the framework of what was going on in the world during the 60s. Even today, traveling to the museum along the country roads it is hard to envision thousands converging on the site. Homeowners along the route made sandwiches with the help of concert-goers and gave them to those stuck in traffic.  
Max Yasgur, addressed the cheering crowd. “I'm a farmer. I don't know how to speak to twenty people at one time, let alone a crowd like this. But I think you people have proven something to the world. This is the largest group of people ever assembled in one place. …you've had quite a few inconveniences as far as water,
food, and so forth. Your producers have done a mammoth job to see that you're taken care of... But above that, the important thing that you've proven to the world is that a half a million kids — and I call you kids because I have children that are older than you are — a half million young people can get together and have three days of fun and music and have nothing but fun and music, and God Bless You for it!”

The Museum at Bethel Woods, is a captivating multi-media experience that combines film and interactive displays, text panels and artifacts