On the final morning of the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock, we awoke to our newly tie-dyed shirts ready to be worn and headed to Bethel Woods, NY from our little farmhouse Airbnb.
We anticipated both high traffic volume and crowded options so set off by 10:30 for a scheduled 7 PM concert. Figured we’d spend the day checking out the site and all options.
As it turned out, traffic was almost non-existent with bucolic rolling farmland interrupted by flashing signage warning of “event traffic” ahead. We stopped and checked out the shops near the entrance road with multiple displays including meeting Lucy Laws who took many of the original photographs and was hosting a display and sale of her historic pics and chatting with folks. Cool.
Arrived at our extremely convenient parking spot with place for snoozing in the trees and tailgating with our egg salad sandwiches and chicken knowing it was a far cry from the original challenges. We managed to pace ourselves all day and late into the night with tailgating, drinking, and nourishments both at the parking lot and inside the venue.
We made our way through the patient but odd security check area into the Museum and gift shop building. Absolutely LOVED the museum and spent a good couple of hours checking out both original footage and contextual exhibits mixed with bean bag viewing areas and a magic bus. We were grateful to have recently seen excellent documentaries which made many of the exhibits clearer and easier to grasp.
Outside on the grounds were many special activities for the anniversary weekend and we gradually explored them all taking time to snooze in a hammock and under a tree. We met the original couple from the album cover who are still together and weekend celebrities, cruised through the Bindi bazaar of tapestries and scented lotions and organic dog treats, checked out the take-your-photo-here frame with the original field and stage in the distance, hit the craft tent for flower headbands and leather stamped bracelets, and thoroughly enjoyed the pre-concert bands wafting across the area.
I was most entertained watching the many characters wandering around – it all appeared to be mostly original attendees with plenty of modern spin on their outfits. Some just nailed it. Others choose to be who they are today while still others struggled with older physiques in their hippie heyday clothing.
By the time the concert was ready to begin, a wicked storm was blowing in causing both a public announcement to seek shelter immediately and the show would be delayed one hour. And let the games begin. It was indeed a reminder of the vagaries of August in the Catskills with high winds, rumbling thunder, a 10-minute downpour effectively drenching everything on the field and a continued hour of light rain. In the sweet summer sweat, the rain was both refreshing and cooling but it didn’t dampen the party one bit.
With more than half the crowd wearing plastic bags in a vain attempt to stay dry, Grace Potter took to the stage and worked the field like a magician. It was disappointing she was cut short but she made the most of it playing multiple instruments and drowning out any concerns.
An hour later when the Tedeschi Truck band began, the rain stopped and the wicked guitar licks of Derek Trucks flooded us with their signature blues rock sound. As they worked through their set, a sunset rainbow appeared over the arena and the plastic bags started coming off with the crowd on their feet unable to stay seated for very long. The spirit of the weekend and original was with us. As some of the original attendees put it, “It’s no surprise we are all returning toward that one weekend, of Utopia recollected, for some relief. To take off with reckless abandon and relax from the stress of bucking systems and iring parents. It was a weekend where harsh realities and utopian dreams mashed up and blurred the lines. Most everyone who was here, continues to say that the magic was in the freedom of being exactly who they were without the societal constrictions that had been gripping them so tightly. Now, fifty years later, the people are ready, once again, to be catapulted right into an evolution.” Well, I don’t know about catapulted but the people were READY to let loose and jam.
Our collective potential for connection is ripe and the beauty of that infamous weekend is that it was never just that weekend. The spirit lives on in the people who made it what it was and the generations that have launched it from there. As John Fogerty took the stage complete with psychedelic projections and lighting but focused on the energy and musicianship borne from five decades of experience, you could feel the release, the reclamation of a different time and mood.
As the final headliner from the entire weekend of celebrations, he did not disappoint playing hit after hit, reminiscence after reminiscence. He introduced his musician sons, one of whom paid tribute to Hendrix with a soulful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.
For two hours, John Fogerty and his excellent band captured the spirit of Woodstock, again, causing us all to quietly wander back to our cars after midnight with fireworks blasting off and the warm glow of a time both in the past and the present. We know we took a moment to look back on what was good, that brought us here, and commit to “moving forward, deepening our roots by uplifting the individual people who – each in their own ways – made up the movement and ignite the fires that fueled it.” Couldn’t have hoped for anything more than that.
By all means, contact us for tips and details if you’re planning a trip to the region. We’re always happy to share our travel knowledge. www.facebook.com/SueHendersonPhotography/