The gathering of youth at Bethel, NY, that middle August weekend of 1969, has broad meaning to different people. For the promoters it was a financial disaster. For the community it was an interruption of a way of life. For the throngs who showed up it was about the music and survival.
Town officials were assured no more than 50,000 would be attending and went about the business of planning for that many. The estimate was a little off. By Saturday an estimated 500,000 were in and around the festival site.
Basic services were strained beyond the breaking point. Food and water was in short supply as were the porta-potties. By Sunday, then governor Nelson Rockefeller called festival organizer John Roberts and told him he was thinking of ordering 10,000 New York National Guard troops to the festival. Roberts was successful in persuading Rockefeller not to do this. Sullivan County declared a state of emergency.
In a balance of nature, two died and two were born between the opening and the close. All in all there was a sense of social unity and the mass hysteria predicted by the media never came about. It was an amazing peaceful affair and in the aftermath of the exodus the world learned something about the heart and soul of a generation. People of all ages, skin color, nationalities and mindsets could come together in harmony and live together in peace. In the final analysis… it was all about the music.
"We were ready to rock out and we waited and waited and finally it was our turn ... there were a half million people asleep. These people were out. It was sort of like a painting of a Dante scene, just bodies from hell, all intertwined and asleep, covered with mud. "And this is the moment I will never forget as long as I live: a quarter mile away in the darkness, on the other edge of this bowl, there was some guy flicking his Bic, and in the night I hear, 'Don't worry about it John. We're with you.' I played the rest of the show for that guy." John Fogerty regarding Creedence Clearwater Revival's 3 a.m. start time at Woodstock.
Saturday, August 16
- Country Joe McDonald
- John Sebastian
- Keef Hartley Band
- The Incredible String Band
- Canned Heat
- Grateful Dead
- Creedence Clearwater Revival
- Janis Joplin with The Kozmic Blues Band
- Sly & the Family Stone
- The Who
- Jefferson Airplane