Last month The Woodstock Music & Arts Fair, Aquarian Expo celebrated its 42nd birthday. I was privileged enough to be a part of it in beautiful Bethel, NY (no not Woodstock, NY which is 43 miles away and was never part of the equation). I hung with hippies. I heard Bob Dylan and Leon Russell play into the night. I hung around hippies, watched and interacted with local musicians on a stage late into the nights. I stood on the historic ground where approx. 500,000 strong made history that will most likely never be repeated.
I did my research. I studied, as a detailed musician would, the intricate points about the festival. The promoters, the movements, the music, the trials and the miraculous way this was pulled off against all odds. It made me appreciate even more the hallowed ground I stood on. But even more, it helped me appreciate the people I met who attended this historic event even more. This wasn't just about the music. It was about equality, our government, a common belief that things needed to change, peace, love and taking the country back. There have been many huge festivals and several "Woodstocks" since. Though some attract thousands of fans they aren’t always peaceful. This festival saw the coming together of people that to this day celebrate and welcome new friends in peace & love. I was welcomed with open arms by those I met. True peace and fellowship was had. Michael Lang, one of the promoters had said, back then many people believed you take care of yourself and then help others. In Woodstock Nation things changed. Whatever you had was everyones! People gave to strangers as if they were family without hestiation. Wow! Where can we find much of this today?
The people I met were just this way 42 years later. Welcoming me, though I never attended the festival since I was only 6 at the time, I felt like I was home. I was comfortable and peaceful for 3 days. And yes, it rained like heck just as it did 42 years earlier for part of it. It brought it to life even more!
What's sad is the town of Bethel has never and probably will never for the foreseeable future embrace this legacy. I find this disheartening. Many were overwhelmed by these 3 days. So many people converging on this quiet little town. Sullivan County was literally overrun. The NYS Thruway was closed! But HISTORY was made people! I don’t get it. Can’t their be understanding after 42 years? Not really for many.
It wasn't about petty noise issues. They DO have the Bethel Woods Performing Arts Center on what was Yasgurs Farm now. This is a big piece of land surrounded by... well more land. It was about sheer numbers. But the amount of people was part of the beauty and history. They were there to make a statement as a collective group by just attending that peace was the way adn they wanted to see change. An end to Vietnam. Civil rights for all and so much more. This was the youth of America standing together. It was about loving the person next to you. Sweating it out for 3 days in the heat then rain and mud would send most people today packing. These people stayed and lived life to the fullest.
It truly is a shame Bethel will not truly embrace history. Yet the town of Woodstock, 43 miles away, does moreso. Walkill blew a great chance at being a part of history. Curious is they ever had any regrets. The people of Bethel did give credit to the youth of America who flocked into their small town 42 years ago. Saying they were polite, opinionated but respectful and thankful for anything they were given. They made this time about something that seems so easy to grasp in our heads but so hard to express with our hearts-Peace, Love & Music~ Why? Many possible reasons. Too wrapped up in our daily lives? Too domesticated in our ways to give up too much to take a stand? I don't know.
What this writer does know is this: given the state of our country today, we need desperately to have the spirit within our society, especially our youth, that brought Woodstock to be what it was and is today. Things can change if people stand as one. We are all different but need tolerance, which comes by way of Peace & Love. This is what I learned. It isn't for a weekend either. ITS FOR A LIFETIME!
How exciting. Am I crazy to think that? I don’t believe so. I guess deep down I always was and truly am... a hippy! I can live with that just fine... GCS
Links: Preserving Woodstock