The Woodstock Festival & The 1960s

In a time when Americans were deeply divided on everything from traditional societal structures to foreign wars, three days of peace and music seemed to be exactly what the world needed.

Woodstock Festival in 1969

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Woodstock Music & Art Fair

On August 15, one of the most celebrated music festivals in history took place in a field in Bethel, NY. What followed was beyond anything anyone could have predicted. The cultural phenomenon no one foresaw transformed an ordinary field into a historic landmark where legendary performers played to more than 450,000 people. Unimaginable mud and unforgettable moments transformed Woodstock Music and Art Fair into a cultural rallying cry for an entire generation.

Think you know the story? Get ready for your visit to The Museum at Bethel Woods with these Festival Facts.

Woodstock Festival Facts

  • The Woodstock Festival wasn’t held in Woodstock. Woodstock Ventures, the organizers of the festival, had wanted to hold the festival in their company’s namesake village, but couldn’t find an available location large enough for the anticipated 100,000 people. They leased some land at an industrial park near Middletown, New York (in the town of Wallkill), secured the required permits, and began advertising the festival. With only a month to go before the August 15 festival start date, the permits were revoked, and Woodstock Ventures was forced to find another location. They were shown an alfalfa field with a natural amphitheater shape in the town of Bethel, and they quickly negotiated with the owner, Max Yasgur, to have their festival there. In one month, the promoters got the word out about the venue change, issued new posters and advertising, and constructed the festival site from scratch.
  • The communities around Sullivan County, especially Bethel, were not prepared for the crowds that began arriving. By Thursday, August 14, the roads and fields around the festival site were an enormous traffic jam.
  • The festival officially began just after 5 pm on Friday, August 15, 1969, going until 2 am the next morning.
  • On Saturday, August 16, the festival began at noon and ended after The Who played a 24-song set that started at 3 am.
  • Jimi Hendrix played what many consider to be the festival highlight, on Monday, August 18, when only 35,000 people—a small fraction of the crowd—remained.
  • Some residents did not embrace the crowds, yet others welcomed the visitors, supplying them with free food and water when it was apparent that Food For Love, the festival concessionaire, was not prepared to feed the massive crowd that gathered. The Hog Farm commune of New Mexico, hired to build a campsite on the grounds for attendees, opened the Free Kitchen serving macrobiotic, vegetarian meals.
  • First aid at the festival was provided by the Woodstock medical crew in a field hospital located near the stage. The team tended minor accidents, food poisoning, and an epidemic of cut feet since so many were going barefoot.
  • A “freak-out tent” was established for those suffering bad trips.
  • There have been no credible claims of anyone actually born at the festival, despite stage announcements that are heard in the Woodstock film and its soundtrack album. Evidence suggests that one baby was born en-route to the festival and a second baby was born at a local hospital after its mother was airlifted out of the festival. According to popular tradition, countless children were conceived at the festival.