The Woodstock Legacy Lives on After 50 Long Years

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the original Woodstock festival, and Bethel Woods Center for the Arts (BWCA) is commemorating this celebration with A Season of Song & Celebration.

Although the BWCA originally planned on celebrating the anniversary through Bethel Woods Music & Culture Festival on Aug. 16-18 in collaboration with Live Nation and INVNT, the plans were dismissed after INVNT announced their ceasing involvement and the BWCA confirmed the cancellation.

“Fifty years ago, people gathered peacefully on our site inspired to change the world through music,” CEO of BWCA Darlene Fedun told “As the stewards of this historic site, we remain committed to preserving this rich history and spirit, and to educating and inspiring new generations to contribute positively to the world through music, culture and community.”

To reinforce the importance of this historical event, BWCA will reopen their museum on March 30, where a special exhibit called “We are Golden: Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of the Woodstock Festival and Aspirations for an Aquarian Future” will be held. 

This special exhibit will focus on the roots of contemporary movements such as the LGBTQ movement, Earth Day, the Peace Movement, the #MeToo movement and student gun control.

The opening day of this exhibit will have free tours of the main exhibit and a special exhibition curator talk in the event gallery at noon. In addition to the museum reopening, the BWCA will also hold four days of events.

The events will still take place during the anniversary ‘weekend’ from Aug. 15 to Aug. 18, including original Woodstock performers such as The Edgar Winter Band, Arlo Guthrie and Santana.

BWCA is celebrating the original festival, but many of today’s youth may misunderstand the roots of this historic staple. BWCA expresses on their website their hopes that youth will “draw inspiration to articulate what it is they want from their own world in their own time.”

Fifty years ago on a rainy weekend in August, the Woodstock Music & Art Fair held three days of peace and music in the town of Bethel, NY and became a crucial part of history regarding community and social revolution.

The festival took place in 1969 on Aug. 15 to Aug. 18 at Max Yasgur’s 600-acre dairy farm. Originally, co-produced by John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, Artie Kornfeld and Michael Lang, Lang and Kornfeld hoped to build a recording studio in Woodstock, NY. This studio would allow a place for rock musicians to play where legends, such as Bob Dylan, already lived. Soon, the idea of the festival was born.

Tickets were printed at $7 for one day, $13 for two days and $18 for three days. The expectation of attendees was low-balled at 50,000, but soon skyrocketed to approximately 200,000 people. 

Early festival-goers lined up around Yasgur’s farm, but the lack of funding and manpower to protect the outer fence of the farm allowed for attendees to slip into the farm unnoticed. Producers, ultimately, were then forced to allow Woodstock to be free.

An estimated 1 million people arrived, and although law enforcement sent thousands home, approximately 500,000 still remained on the grounds. Cars were abandoned on highways due to traffic, marking a turning point in hippie culture.

Although stressful and organized in a frenzy, Woodstock was an amazing success with headliners such as Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Grateful Dead.

Ron Simon, New Paltz resident of over 50 years, came to SUNY New Paltz in 1967 and never left. He describes his experience as a significant memory of his life.

“My experience at the Woodstock festival was incredible. Great vibe, great music. I knew I was a part of something very special but had no idea as to the historic nature of the event,” Simon said. “After a horrible 1968, the 1969 Woodstock festival, along with the first landing on the moon, seemed to provide a new sense of optimism.”

Lang recently announced the lineup for Woodstock 50, now with no competition, as another anniversary event taking place in Watkins Glen, NY from Aug. 16 to Aug. 18. This event will feature headliners like Jay-Z and Miley Cyrus, but will also include original performers such as John Fogerty, Country Joe Mcdonald and Santana. 

About Susanna Granieri 76 Articles
Susanna Granieri is a fourth-year journalism and digital media production major. This is her fifth semester with The Oracle. Previously, she worked as an Arts & Entertainment Copy Editor and Sports Editor. She is passionate about journalism and being a watchdog for our local issues and news in the Village of New Paltz. She has also written for the Legislative Gazette, the Southern Ulster Times and Being Patient. She will continue her journalism career in the fall of 2021 at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.