The Arts
5 Things You Didn’t Know About Woodstock
July 26, 2018
Woodstock site

In the summer of 1969, 400,000 people descended on a muddy field in the Catskills, New York to enjoy “3 days of peace and music” at Woodstock. Although some of the events of that August are blurred by the drug-fueled haze, the music endures clear as a bell. The music is why someone like me who wasn’t born until 14 years later on the other side of the world, made a road trip detour to walk on this hallowed turf and learn a little more about the festival that defined a generation.

5 things you didn’t know about Woodstock

1. Woodstock location, location, location

Woodstock was not held in Woodstock, New York. The town set to initially host the festival pulled their permit months from the event due to resident protests. The second location was Wallkill, but again residents opposed the plan. Finally, the Aquarian Exposition found it’s place in Bethel, where dairy farmer Max Yasgur rented some of his land to festival organisers at the displeasure of some of his neighbours.

Woodstock Site - National Register of Historic Places
Woodstock Monument
The Woodstock Monument with peace sign mowed into the hillside in the background

2. A rose by any other name

Though commonly referred to as Woodstock Festival, due to a pre-existing fête of that name, the music event was dubbed Woodstock – An Aquarian Exposition.

3. The Woodstock line up is a purple haze

Due to spontaneous changes to the line-up and its programming, the order bands played is to this day unconfirmed and changes as new evidence comes to light. Richie Havens opened Woodstock because the scheduled band was stuck in traffic. He ran out of songs and ad-libbed “Freedom” now one of his most famous tunes.

4. Three days of peace and music

The Woodstock poster featuring a catbird perched on the neck of a guitar and the tagline “Three Days of Peace and Music”, was designed by Arnold Skolnick an artist and publisher from New York City. He was inspired to create the papercut design by a Matisse exhibit he had seen shortly before, and drawings he was creating of catbirds on Shelter Island, New York. Skolnick was paid $6000 for his original design however has received less than $15 in royalties since.

5. Before text messages there was a tree

Festival-goers pinned messages to a particular tree in order to communicate with each other, to arrange meeting spots, rides etc. That tree is still standing and is known as the Messenger Tree.

Woodstock poster
Woodstock poster design by Arnold Skolnick
The Messenger Tree - Woodstock
The Messenger Tree

Visiting the Woodstock site

The 1969 Woodstock site now called Bethel Woods Center for the Arts is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The 800-acre campus incorporates the legendary field where the event was held, plus an outdoor amphitheater, museum and conservatory. The complex is used for arts education as well as hosting visitors to the Woodstock site.

The Museum at Bethel Woods walks through the social and political context of the time leading up to Woodstock, in addition to information, exhibits and videos of the Aquarian Exposition. We were fortunate enough to be guided through the Museum by an original Woodstock attendee, before we took a walk out onto the grassy field where it all happened. Though there was a lot more peace than music happening the summer day we attended, I would recommend the experience to any music devotee.

Peace, love & inspiring travel,

Madam ZoZo

Woodstock Bus
5 Things You Didn't Know About Woodstock-50

About author

Madam ZoZo

Hi! I'm Madam ZoZo, aka Zoë, an Australian designer, creative consultant, blogger and digital nomad. I'm passionate about travel, design, dance and new experiences that fuel my creativity. I strive to travel in a style that is gentle on the earth and that contributes to the communities I visits, even if it is merely to take away a greater understanding of a different culture. Duende by Madam ZoZo, is where I share the stories of my travels and the duende (soul/inspiration) I find along the way.

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