The Museum at Bethel Woods Preservation Fellow Eleanor Hein reflects on time spent in The Bindy Bazaar.
There is magic in the Bindy Woods.
It was certainly apparent to the organizers of the Woodstock festival in 1969. The woods were not a canvas on which organizers hoped to paint the entrance to the stage field. A more fitting metaphor is that the woods as a whole were like a block of marble, within which was the Bindy Bazaar. All the organizers needed to do was carve out the sculpture. Over fifty years later, the magic is still here.
I began working for the Museum at Bethel Woods in February of this year as the Landscape Preservation Fellow. With backgrounds in archaeology and hospitality management, I was unsure what expectations this position might hold for me or what tasks might accompany them.
Past sites I have worked with do not compare to what I have found here at Bethel Woods. A 17th century fort site in Michigan had disintegrated and been lost for years until its remains were rediscovered in the 20th century. A car museum in Indiana was near to the old factory and office buildings, though those had long since been either torn down, made into independent businesses, or abandoned entirely. A prehistoric site in Florida was buried under tens of feet of soil and long predated modern residents.
Here, there is something different. There is living memory of the events that took place on this land. The memories are fond and the ghosts are friendly (and according to some, the spiritual energy here is strong and there is indeed quite a crowd of the departed). Alongside the preservation of memory and spirit, the Museum itself keeps watch over the physical site. The staff here at Bethel Woods are committed to the continued preservation of it all: tangible and metaphysical alike.
That commitment is something I share. After the snow finally melted (I’m no stranger to unpredictable winters), I was finally able to experience the historic woods that hosted the Bindy Bazaar in 1969. The research I’d been delving into had instilled in my mind an image of large rocks, small clearings, and beds of thorns (after reading a particularly horrific story told by art crew member Herb Summers, in which a long thorn stuck through his pants had impeded his movement until it was removed by his supervisor, Ron Liis 1. Experiencing the woods in person, all of those elements were there, but there was more, too. There was magic.
The stone wall that stretches the width of the woods alone delivers a whimsical fairy tale atmosphere. Add to that the tall canopy, the diverse fauna, and the comforting reminder of 1969’s good vibes, and the overall experience of simply being there is nothing short of ethereal.
Presently, one trail looping from small sections of both the Groovy Way and the Gentle Path is marked and paved for foot traffic. I cannot encourage visitors enough to walk the trails and to experience it all for themselves, as my words cannot do it justice.
Landscape preservation is about more than its title might suggest. The landscape is the physical land, of course, but also the experienced history and the natural inhabitants. My goals are to share the experiences of locations like the Bindy Bazaar with the public, but also to protect them by seeking sustainable programs and projects for them. I have recently attained grant funds through Sullivan Renaissance specifically to work on preservation in the Bindy Woods. These funds will be used to locate and mark the next portion of the Gentle Path trail, which will make the woods more accessible and improve the immersive visitor experience. I look forward to sharing the magic that has been instilled here with supporters and guests of Bethel Woods, and maybe together, we can make some magic of our own!
The 2021-22 Fellowship is funded by the A. Lindsay and Olive B. O’Connor Foundation and through in-kind support by Bethel Woods. A campaign to raise funds for the current and future Fellowship is ongoing. Support Ele and future opportunities by donating to Bethel Woods.
(1) Herb Summers, interview, N.D., email, oral history archive at The Museum at Bethel Woods, Bethel Woods Center for the Arts