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Column: Writing on the Wall

'By the time we got to Woodstock' — it was 41 years later

Visiting the site of the 1969 festival of peace and love


We finally made it to Woodstock last week — even though we were no longer wearing bell-bottomed jeans, paisley bandanas, or tie-dye T-shirts with bright yellow peace signs or smiley faces. We had a little more around the middle, a little sprinkling of silver among the gold, and we used our GPS system to get there — but we eventually “got ourselves back to the garden.”

It was cool, really (as in groovy, it was actually a hot day). It was a trip without the acid (now I carry ant-acid). An experience without the LSD. And it made me forget it was time for my nap!

We were almost 15 then, my husband and I, when, in the middle of August, 1969, half a million people gathered at Max Yasgur’s 600-acre farm in Bethel, NY for the Woodstock Music and Art fair, a peaceful four-day weekend of music that Rolling Stone magazine called “”the most famous event in rock history.” We didn’t attend the festival, probably because we were too young, and I don’t think we really missed going until years later when we realized how far-reaching the effects of being there were. “You were there?” people ask in awe of those who actually made it to the festival, as if they had walked on the moon.

Michael Lang, one of four men who produce the festival, said, “That’s what means the most to me — the connection to one another felt by all of us who worked on the festival, all those who came to it, and the millions who couldn’t be there but were touched by it.”

And people are still touched by it. We drove along the country road that, for that one weekend 41 years ago, had been so congested with traffic that people left their cars and walked the rest of the way, and where musicians had to be helicoptered to the stage if they were to perform at all.

We first visited the Museum at Bethel Woods, a self-guided, fun tour that took us back to the music and the times of the 60s. We sat in a Volkswagon “love bus” and watched clips from Woodstock performers as we sat (and groaned to get up from) bean bag chairs arranged on the floor. We learned about the turmoil of the 60s, and a new generation that never trusted anyone over 30.

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