Volunteer Stories: Steve Rolnick

Exploring the stories of Woodstock attendees turned Bethel Woods volunteers.

rolnick headshot

Steve Rolnick said that when he arrived on the festival grounds off a bus from the city, there almost seemed to be a “golden glow” over the area, even before the thousands of attendees arrived.

He was hired as a lighting tech for the Woodstock festival in 1969, and in turn, unarguably had one of the best views in the house, watching every act perform dusk till dawn atop one of the lighting towers. “Everyone working there was just filled with an incredible amount of joy,” he said. “It was a very peaceful feeling. That vibe is still here.”

The most memorable moment for him during those three August days fifty years ago was being onstage during Jimi Hendrix’s set. He remembers looking out into the crowd and seeing a huge American flag held up in the pit during the Star Spangled Banner. There are no photos of the flag during this song, but Steve has since confirmed with other alumni that the flag was indeed there.

But more than being witness to any performance, Steve took with him the inspiring sense of community and connectivity present among so many people. “...ideals we had in the ‘60s...those ideals could be maintained and we could go forward,” Steve said.

Still from Woodstock doc
Still of Steve Rolnick from Warner Brothers documentary Woodstock.

After being on such a “spiritual high,” Steve felt he could not return to life in the city. Instead he found himself on a plane to New Mexico with the Romney family, where he lived on a hogg farm and worked other shows and festivals for some time.

Steve returned to Bethel, NY for the first time since 1969 about four years ago. When he stepped onto the historic field, he was overwhelmed with emotion, saying that it felt like he had come home. After seeing the Bethel Woods Museum, Steve met with the museum director for two hours to recount his story.

Shortly after, Steve was hooked back into this world and started volunteering at Bethel Woods. Today, he volunteers during Pavilion concerts as well as a docent tour guide for the museum.

“This is the only place I’ve ever worked where everybody smiles at you when you come in,” Steve said.

Steve is briefly pictured in the Warner Brother’s Woodstock documentary; this clip is played at the entrance to the Museum Main Exhibit. During his docent tours, Steve always begins by pointing himself out in the crowd. 

Photo and interview done by Bethel Woods Marketing Intern, Lindsey Toomer.

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