It was a haven of peace and music. An escape from war and politics. In remote Bethel, New York, Woodstock brought around 400,000 attendees the experience of a lifetime.
This year marks the music festival’s 50th anniversary, originally held on Aug. 15-18, 1969.
An attempt to recreate the event recently fell through; nevertheless, the original festival lives on in the minds of its attendees, some of whom the Exponent spoke with to commemorate the event.
Andy Goldman of Philadelphia was entering his sophomore year at George Washington University when his college roommate convinced him to go.
“I had no idea what Woodstock was. My roommate said he’d buy the tickets, so I said OK. When the time came, I borrowed my father’s car and drove up.”
They hit traffic, taking nearly six hours to drive the last 10 miles to the festival.
“By the time we got there, they declared it a free concert because there were so many people that the fences were down,” he said.
During the day, Goldman remembers watching Richie Havens perform. At night, heavy rains descended.
“I was given the responsibility of putting up the tent,” he explained. “It was raining really bad, so I’d put the tent up rather quickly. I put it up inside out.”
As a result, the tent was no longer waterproof, he said.
“We ended up sleeping in the car. I was driving a 1967 Volkswagen Beetle. You know how big a Volkswagen Beetle is. My roommate from college was 6-foot-4.”
Understandably, Goldman said, “by five in the morning, we were rather uncomfortable. And it was such a muddy mess. Many of the people were completely naked. We decided that we’d be better off leaving than staying the first day.”
Susan Neuman experienced a similar muddy situation. The Narberth resident went to the concert with a peer from George Washington High School, whom she still considers her best friend.
“I was the one that wanted to go to Woodstock. We did not obviously know what we were getting ourselves into, but my sole purpose was to see Jimi Hendrix,” she said.
“As we got closer, it was just sheer insanity. We kept getting roadblocks because there were just massive amounts of people, and the roads were basically closed.”
Neuman and crew drove across farmland to eschew the traffic. However, when they arrived they encountered another problem. There was no space for their car because a Volkswagen was blocking the only available spot. Luckily, fellow concert-goers were eager to help.
“A couple of guys actually picked up the Volkswagen and moved it so we could put our car right there. We parked the car and I can’t believe that he’s doing this. Like, let me get out of the car,” Neuman said with a laugh.
Her most striking moment involves a crazy nude stunt.
“It had rained the night before, so the ground was pretty wet and muddy. At the top of this hill was a naked man riding a tricycle, a bike that a little 3-year-old would ride. He’s going to attempt to come down the muddy hill.”
From there, the story gets messier, she explained.
“There’s hundreds of us at the bottom of the hill, clapping and cheering him on. So, he started down the hill. Needless to say, he got maybe three feet and the tricycle turns it over. He landed in the mud. Everybody erupted with clapping and roaring. It was great.”
The rain delayed many performers. Hendrix moved his set to Monday, unfortunately for Neuman. She said, “while I considered myself a hippie, I was more of a weekend hippie because I needed to get back on Monday morning to go to work.”
Although she missed Hendrix’s performance, Neuman remembers watching Joe Cocker, Creedence Clearwater Revival and more.
“It was one of my best experiences in my life,” she said.
Francine Moskowitz now lives in Los Angeles, but is originally from Philadelphia.
“I was always going to go. There was nothing that was going to stop me from going,” she recalled. “We went the night before everyone else did, so we didn’t have that horrific traffic. They were setting up, so we wound up helping.”
Moskowitz could tell from the set-up that the festival lacked structure.
“It was fragmented from the very beginning. You could see that there were a lot of good-hearted people who didn’t have any idea of what they were doing.”
However, she emphasized, “people were very nice.”
“We wound up sitting around a big group of people. Some people had cans of ravioli, and they passed it around.”
The festival cemented the ‘60s experience for her.
“It was all this goodwill that went on. It was what you dreamed about and what was said about all of the people in that realm of hippie-dom.”
Unlike Neuman, Beryl Rosenstock of Philadelphia did not make it to the festival grounds.
“I had just met my husband a week before Woodstock. We got along very well, and he said, ‘Do you want to go to this Woodstock thing next week? I bought tickets.’”
After a second date to vet her future husband, Rosenstock agreed and the two left for Bethel.
“We kept hearing news reports talking about the traffic conditions. They said, if you get there, don’t even think about getting back out.”
That posed a problem.
“My husband was a resident, and he was supposed to be on call the next day,” she said. “We realized that there was no way that we were going to make it.”
Nevertheless, just being a part of the Woodstock experience makes Rosenstock proud.
“I like that we have a story about Woodstock. Being a person who came of age in the ΄60s, Woodstock was a culmination of my youth. After that, my life changed. We got married. We had children.”