ON THIS DAY: Aug 15-18 1969 Woodstock Music & Art Fair opens in New York State on Max Yasgur's farm

Music 16/08/2019

It's been 50 years since the iconic Woodstock Music & Art Fair this week, and we're celebrating by bringing you some little known facts about the festival.

Provided by teh Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, here are 12 truths about the festival:

1. Woodstock festival didn't actually take place in Woodstock.
The organisers of the festival originally wanted to hold the event in or near the village of Woodstock in New York, but they couldn't find a suitable location that was available. They eventually settled on an industrial site near Middleton, New York (Town of Wallkill), but their permits were revoked a month before the festival was set to kick off. Luckily they found Sullivan County dairy farmer Max Yasgur, who agreed to allow the festival to take place on his property in the town of Bethel, New York. 

2. The festival didn't take place on Max Yasgur's dairy farm.
Woodstock actually happened on one of Max's hayfields about three miles from his home farm. Max has the largest dairy operation in Sullivan County at the time, and he owned several tracts of land for his cattle and for growing hay for feed.

3. Woodstock Ventures commissioned David Edward Byrd, the house artist at Bill Graham's Fillmore East, to design the poster for the Woodstock Festival.
Byrd's design was a highly stylized, floral, intricate poster featuring a fully nude woman surrounded by cherubs, hearts, and arrows — and no space for the names of the bands. Local shop owners refused to display the poster, and the promoters wanted something different, so they commissioned a new design from Madison Avenue's ad guy Arnold Skolnick. Skolnick’s poster had a simplified design featuring a white dove perched on a guitar neck, against a bright red background. Skolnick’s tag line 'Three Days of Peace and Music' became the rallying cry for the festival, and his dove and guitar became instantly, internationally recognizable.

4. Richie Havens opened the Woodstock festival, even though he wasn’t scheduled to go on until later in the evening.
Heavy traffic on opening day had prevented the opening acts from arriving at the festival, and festival organizers convinced Richie Havens to take the stage around 5:15pm on Friday afternoon. The other acts were still stuck in the traffic, so Havens performed several encores, playing "every song he knew." Searching for another song to sing, he began strumming, getting into a groove, when the word "Freedom" came to mind. He sang his now-famous song 'Freedom' for the first time, on stage at Woodstock, making the words up as he played. He later told the story of having to see the movie 'Woodstock', so that he could hear how the song went so he could perform it again.

5. Two bands were scheduled to play but were unable to make the festival. 
The Jeff Beck Group (featuring Jeff Beck, Rod Stewart, Ronnie Wood, and Aynsley Dunbar) split up only weeks before the festival. Iron Butterfly were stuck at LaGuardia Airport in New York and couldn’t get to the festival by ground transportation, so they demanded the festival promoters send a helicopter for them. As the story goes, the promoters sent the band’s manager a telegram, the first letter of each line spelling out the words "F*** You." Iron Butterfly never arrived at the festival.

6. There was no official Woodstock merchandise at the festival.
It’s hard to think of such an event today without t-shirts, hoodies, hats, and a thousand other logo items for sale at every turn - but the only official souvenir of the Woodstock festival was the 8-1/2 x 11 festival program, which went largely undistributed, many of them being thrown away still in their boxes after the festival. Security, stagehands, and other crew members were issued t-shirts and windbreakers with the Woodstock logo on them, and they have become the lasting, iconic souvenirs of the festival, as well as numerous bootleg items sold by enterprising festival attendees from their trunks or from booths in the woods.

7. Despite Arlo Guthrie’s stage announcement that "the New York State Thruway is closed, man", the Thruway remained open during the Woodstock festival.
State police did close the Newburgh and Harriman exits for a time, however, in an attempt to keep even more people from streaming to the festival.

8. Rhere were no reported incidents of violence among the half-million people in the audience across the three-day festival.
The only recorded incident happened on-stage, as Abbie Hoffman rushed the stage during a break in The Who's set. Hoffman took the microphone and began a semi-coherent rant about freeing John Sinclair from jail, when Pete Townshend turned, yelled at Hoffman to get off "my stage", and hit the activist in the head with the neck of his guitar. Hoffman left the stage, and The Who proceeded with their set.

9. Despite stage announcements and newspapers reporting at least two births at Woodstock, to date, no one has stepped forward as a Woodstock baby.
The current thought is that one baby was born in a car en route to the festival, and another was born in a local hospital after its mother was airlifted out of Woodstock in labour. The identities of these babies are also unknown. There are, however, countless people who claim to have been conceived at the Woodstock festival.

10. The four-hour film 'Woodstock' won the Best Documentary Oscar in 1970.
Since then, it has been re-released several times with added concert footage and extras. The film was directed by Michael Wadleigh, who tapped young filmmaker Martin Scorsese to be an assistant director and film editor and Thelma Schoonmaker to be supervising editor. Scorsese and Schoonmaker have remained a director/editor team to this day, and Woodstock was their film together.

 

11. Those who were featured in the film 'Woodstock' became part of the lasting legacy of the festival.
Some of the best musical acts of the era played at Woodstock, including Jimi Hendrix, The Who, The Band, Janis Joplin, Johnny Winter, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Jefferson Airplane, Ten Years After, Joan Baez, Santana, Joe Cocker, and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. Those who didn’t appear in the film, like Keef Hartley Band, and Quill, didn’t receive the boost the others did. Uneven performances by The Grateful Dead, The Band, and Janis Joplin kept them out of the original movie and not acknowledged for their performances until later releases of the film.

 

 

12. Bethel Woods Center for the Arts opened in 2006 at the site of the 1969 Woodstock Music and Art Fair.
The historic hill on which the festival audience sat and enjoyed three days of music has been preserved, and Bethel Woods beautiful outdoor concert pavilion and museum campus is situated on the hill overlooking the festival field. The Pavilion hosts outdoor concerts in the summer months, and the Museum is open from April through December.