18 Groovy Facts You May/May Not Know About Woodstock

August 15, 2019
Categories: 

Today (August 15th, 2019) marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most famous music festivsals of all time: Woodstock.

Although the festival is mostly known for legendary performances by artists like Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Carlos Santana and Janis Joplin, as well as being the crown jewel for the counter-culture movement of the '60s, there may be a few other things about Woodstock that we may have missed.

1. Woodstock was banned from its original location because of toilet standards

Woodstock was originally planned to take place at Howard Mills Industrial Park in Wallkill, New York. But local residents believed that the surge of visitors (presumably under the influence of drugs and alcohol) could serve as a problem for the town. To prevent the festival's organizers from obtaining a permit, the town of Wallkill insited that the festival's portable toilets were not up to standard. As a result, the town of Wallkill manned the festival from ever being held there a month before Woodstock was supposed to start.

2. A farmer saved Woodstock

After Wallkill became a buzzkill, Woodstock promoters had their eyes set on Bethel, New York, a small rural town with a population of 2,366. Much like Wallkill, Bethel locals were not too excited about a music festival coming to their community. But dairy farmer Max Yasgur felt differently. Although he was the furthest description of a "hippie", he allowed organizers to use his 600-acre dairy farm for a fee of $50,000 because he shared in the belief of having a three-day concert expierence for the love of music and fun. After he was brought onstage to congratulate the crowd on their assembly, it has been said that Yasgur received just as loud of appaluse as Jimi Hendrix did.

3. Woodstock wasn't supposed to be free

As noble as it may sound, Woodstock organizers were hoping to turn a profit from ticket sales after paying for the talent, production, using Yasgur's land, and other expenses. Admission for a single day was $7 (after inflation calculates to approximately $48.94) and $18 ($125.84) for all three days. But hundreds of thousands of attendees that did not pay for tickets began to show up in Bethel several days before the festival started, when the venue was still putting together its infrastructure (ticket booths, fences, etc).

With no way to turn away oncoming crowds, Woodstock organizers decided to allow the 300,000 extra people in for free, even though there was another 100,000 people that pre-paid for their tickets.

4. There were many cows in the crowd

A dairy farm would not be a dairy farm without cows, and many of Yasgur's cattle were seen wandering the land, socializing with concert goers. The plan was to keep the cows in a fenced in area. But because many attendees arrived days before they could relocate them, Yasgur simply allowed the cows to mingle with the 400,000 visitors.

5. Jimi Hendrix was paid $18,000 to perform.

Booking Jimi Hendrix wasn't cheap. He was Woodstock's highest-paid artist, earning $18,000 (which calculates to approximately 125,838.64 in 2019 dollars). Creedence Clearwater Revival, the first act booked, were paud $10,000. The Who were paid $6250 (although another report suggests they earned $11,200) and Joe Cocker earned $1375. Sha Na Na got $750, and Quill was booked for only $375.

6. Many Woodstock performers were flown in via helicopter

The traffic into Bethel, NY was so bad that the band Sweetwater were unable to open the festival. Instead Richie Havens look their place and Sweetwater, along with many other acts, had to be flown in by helicopter to bypass traffic in order to make their call time.

7. The crowd was surprisingly well-behaved.

Although the locals of Wallkill and Bether were worried that the sudden spike in hippies in their communities would bring lots of destructive behavior, nearly everyone in attendance were well-behaved and respectful. Monticello chief of police Lou Yank described the crowd as the most courteous, considerate, and well-behaved group of young people he has ever dealt with after 24 years on the force.

The only real acts of misbehavior came from the result of food shortages, leading some attendees to loot nearby farms for food.

Although there were many people in the crowd smoking marijuana, police decided not to arrest them for possession because there would not be enough space in Sullivan County, and the next three counties to hold them all.

8. There was so much acid, it was even in the ice.

The presence of psychedelic drugs at Woodstock was nearly inescapable. John Entwistle of The Who once told Billboard that when he drank a bourbon and Coke, he quickly realized that the ice had been spiked with acid. It was estimated that every hour there were 25 "freak-outs" on the first night of the festivals. Emergency medical staff and members of a nearby commune known as the Hog Farm would sit with the concert-goers until the drugs wore off.

9. The Who's set was interrupted by a political activist.

Scheduled to perform on the second day of Woodstock, The Who's set was abruptly crashed by political activist Abbie Hoffman. Hoffman, who co-founded the Youth International Party to protest the Vietnam War, rushed the stage to protest the imprisonment of John Sinclair, leader of the White Panther Party. In response, Pete Townshend swung his guitar at Hoffman and made him leave the stage. Townshend later said that their performance helped boost sales for their album Tommy.

10. There were PSA's in between every act.

In today's digital age, we can receive news on our mobile devices instantly. But in 1969, they had to spread the news the old fashioned way: loud. Between every set, Woodstock staff member Edward "Chip" Monck (yes, that's his real name) informed audience members about unattended children, telling certain people to take their insulin, and even alerting the crowd about harmful "brown acid" circulating throughout the festival.

11. The Woodstock site is now registed as a Historical Place.

In 2017, Woodstock was added to the National Register of Historic Places for its role in the history of music. Yasgur's Dairy Farm is now known as the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, which includes a campus, museum, and a 15,000-seat amphitheater.

12. The garbage had a message.

The chill, relaxed and considerate mood of Woodstock did not end after the final performance. By the end of Hendrix's set in the morning on Monday, August 18th, festival staff began cleaning up the large amount of garbage left behind. When Woodstock co-founder began to examine the venue from a helicopter, he noticed that the clean-up crew arranged the garbage in the formation of the peace symbol.

13. Woodstock’s organizers originally wanted to build a studio, not host a concert.

At first, Woodstock's organizers (Michael Lang, Artie Kornfeld, John Roberts and Joel Rosenman) were originally planning on opening a recording studio in Woodstock, NY, home to musicians like Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, The Band, etc. They soon had their eyes set on a bigger venture, a three-day music festival.

14. The music nearly came to a halt its first night.

Just as Woodstock was beginning, organizers were burning money like gasoline. Due to the amount of traffic, they had to spend tens of thousands of dollars on contracting helicopters to transport musicians, food and supplies to the venue. Weeks before the festival began, some artists were paid twice their rate in order to secure them for the lineup. Roberts even decided to open his trust fund for an emergency loan to keep the event going. They even had to convice the local bank manager to open its doors close to midnight in order for them to access the money.

15. Martin Scorcese won an Oscar for working on the Woodstock documentary. 

Although we know Martin Scorcese for putting out some of the greatest mob films of our time, recent NYU film graduate Martin Scorcese was brought on to create a documentary of the festival. After three days of filming, Scorcese and his crew shot over 120 miles of footage, which was eventually edited down to three hours before its release. The documentary would go on to win an Academy Award and became one of the highest-grossing films ever. However, due to Kornfeld's deal with Warner Brothers, Scorcese and director Michael Wadleigh would receive very little money from the film.

16. Three people died during Woodstock, and there were no births.

Because of the heavy drug use at Woodstock, there were two confirmed fatal overdoses. The third death happend when a 17-year-old male while he was asleep in a sleeping bag, he was run over by a tractor collecting debris.

There were many rumors that there were many births at Woodstock, but none were confirmed. However there were eight miscarriages.

By the festival's end, the 5,162 medical cases were submitted to the New York State Department of Health, with 800 of them being drug-related.

17. Keeping everyone fed was a nightmare. 

With nearly half of a million people confined to a single place, keeping that many people fed was nearly impossible. Members of the Hog Farm commune were brought in to help keep things peaceful. But they then had to bring in temporary members to cook and serve food for the passes. The local Jewish Community Center also helped supply thousands of sandwiches to the crowd after hearing about food shortages, which were soon flown in by a nearby air force base.

18. It took a decade for the Woodstock organizers to turn a profit.

By the end of it all, Roberts, Rosenman, Lang and Kornfeld spent nearly $3.1 million dollars ($15 million in 2019) on Woodstock and raked in about $1.8 million. Roberts' family agreed to cover the remaining costs under the condition that they be repaid, but Rosenman and Roberts were finally able to pay off their debt by the early 1980s.

Related: