Billed as an “Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace and Music,” Woodstock Music Festival was held from August 15th to 18th, 1969 in a farmer’s field in Bethel, New York. Despite the festival organizers originally telling the town that they were expecting a crowd of around 50,000 people, an estimated 400,000 ultimately made their way to the event.
It would go on to become a pivotal event in musical and cultural history, and a definitive moment in the 1960s counterculture movement.
Amid sporadic rain, over thirty acts performed at the festival including The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and many more.
The Woodstock organizers initially struggled to book artists, but in April 1969 they signed a contract with Creedence Clearwater Revival to perform for $10,000. After CCR was on board, the rest of the headliners started to come together.
The 600-acre site in Bethel was owned by dairy farmer Max Yasgur. Many town residents were opposed to the festival, with some even calling for a boycott on Yasgur’s milk. The huge influx of attendees to the town caused massive traffic jams, and the inadequate festival facilities were unable to provide sufficient sanitation or first aid.
The county declared a public emergency as many fans faced muddy fields, bad weather, food shortage, and poor sanitation. But despite the setbacks, the event was seen as a victory of peace and love.
Woodstock has been revived several times since its original incarnation. On the 25th anniversary of the original festival, Woodstock ’94 was held as “2 More Days of Peace and Music.” Headliners included Blind Melon, Violent Femmes, Cypress Hill, Nine Inch Nails, Primus, Aerosmith, and dozens more, but the most memorable performance was Green Day and their infamous mud fight that would end in a completely destroyed stage, and bassist Mike Dirnt’s teeth getting knocked out.
In 1999, Woodstock was reborn again, becoming the second large-scale festival attempting to emulate the original 1969 event. It would go down as one of the worst music festivals of all time, with oppressive heat and poor planning, resulting in widespread rioting and arson.
A 50th anniversary Woodstock event was in the works, with potential headliners including original Woodstock performers John Fogerty, Carlos Santana, and David Crosby, but in July 2019 it was announced that the idea was cancelled after investors had pulled out.
The original 1969 Woodstock remains unrivaled. Today, the field and stage area remain preserved on Yasgur’s farm, as well as a commemorative plaque that was erected in 1984. A museum was opened nearby, and Woodstock still provides jobs and significant revenue to the area. An estimated 2.9 million people have visited the grounds since 2006.