The spark has gone. Or so it seems to those who were born later. Maybe, even too late to feel the 'magic' the representatives of the older generation, flocked in the white glamping tents round Max Yasgurs‘s Farm, obviously remember, or attempt to recollect an authentic spirit of the 1969 event. WXPN presents the ancestor of all music festivals – 'that would shape a generation' – to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Woodstock this week.
Four young men in their 20s – Artie Kornfeld, Michael Lang, John Roberts, and Joel Rosenman – did their best to bring into life their idea of a music festival at Howard Mills Industrial Park in Wallkill, NY, about 70 km away from Woodstock. However, the town of Wallkill officials passed a statute on 2 July 1969, that effectively banned the concert from their vicinity. The organisers have been rejected by other venues, almost been left without options for a decent replacement when Max Yasgur, a local farmer twice older than them, agreed to rent out 600 acres of his dairy farm for Woodstock festival. Although he gave an idealistic reason about closing the "generation gap" with the help of "older people", Yasgur's decision seems rather profitable for himself as he was reportedly paid $75,000 for the use of his land, though other sources name different amounts.
The community was upset with the farmer's decision to accommodate a vast gathering of hippies. While some gave him the cold shoulder, others threatened Yasgur with an arson, boycott of his dairy products, or physical attack. The headstrong farmer ignored them. As the festival advanced, some of Yasgur's neighbours tried to make a profit by selling water to the thirsty masses. The farmer disapproved the business tactics of the locals and put up a sign "Free water" on the side of his barn facing the road.
The music festival lasted from 15 to 18 August. Close to half a million young people attended "An Aquarian Exposition: Three Days of Peace and Music". Most attendees did not pay to get in, and the festival lost money as a result. The weekend was overcrowded and after two days of rain, there was deep mud in many places. The event was commemorated in the Academy Award-winning documentary "Woodstock" in 1970. The Original Woodstock Music Festival only happened once. Namesake events were held in 1979, 1989, 1994, 1999, and 2009.
In the 1980s Jeryl Abramson and Roy Howard purchased the Yasgur Road property. Currently, their son takes care of the place. The place now houses a different annual festival, called the Yasgur Road Reunion, which costs about $60 per person. As Zach Howard said, the preparations for the golden anniversary weekend have been in progress for the last three years: new bathrooms with showers have been built, RV hookups installed, and accommodation for hundreds organised. Yesterday afternoon Zach Howard was sleepless for the previous two days but looking forward to the event. Such is the heavy burden of a parental legacy inherited through Woodstock legend.
The Woodstock spirit is clearly alive in the outcome of eventful 2019. Despite all failed attempts by Woodstock’s original promoter, Michael Lang, to mount the golden anniversary concert, there are still two upcoming performances for those who want to relive the dream. On the site of the original Woodstock, now known as Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, there will be a three-day event. Two miles up the road close to the former homestead of Max Yasgur, landowner of the original Woodstock site, the Yasgur Road Reunion awaits its visitors.