Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Woodstock Nation

August 15, 2009

We left home this morning heading for Bethel, NY, home of the original Woodstock Music and Art Fair in August, 1969. This weekend is the 40th anniversary of Woodstock! On the spur of the moment this past Monday, we bought lawn seat tickets for the Heroes of Woodstock concert being held at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, a wonderful concert facility built where Max Yasgur's farm used to be, on the site of the original festival. So with appropriate musical accompaniment, we were "Goin' Up the Country" in pilgrimage mode.

Our trip up was uneventful, although the traffic backup (construction) at our exit off the NY State Thruway was a touch of verisimilitude for the journey. We stopped for lunch and a quick scope of the land at the Walmart in Monticello--due to our last minute change of plans, and the sold-out concert event, I doubted that I could find a campsite anywhere in the area on such short notice, and Walmart was our default setting. Mo, who had behaved just fine all the way up, decided to try to annoy us by not allowing the bathroom door to open--but it was a "bigger hammer" problem; Joe just banged the handle off, and got a replacement at the Walmart. No permanent damage done!

From there, we drove down the 2-lane road toward Bethel, immediately becoming part of a long uninterrupted line of cars headed in the same direction. We were amused by the sights along the way--a mixture of entrepreneurs at the side of the road selling tie-dyed shirts to all us returning hippies, and of orthodox Jews in full black coat and black hat Shabbos regalia. I hadn't realized that there would be a number of bungalow colonies along this route. The sight of a youngish man, stooped over at the shoulders (too much yeshiva!) holding two young children by the hand, with all of them staggering up a grassy hill in the mid-afternoon sun (it was REALLY hot!) was painful. I don't know why he wasn't fainting from the heat and humidity in his long black sateen coat.

We finally arrived at the Bethel Woods parking lot, and thanks to Mo, we had a nice spot on the pavement, between several other RVs, and a lot of motorcycles. There was a large motorcycle club of some sort partying on the grass right behind us, as an endless stream of cars went past us and into a field behind us. In front of us stretched the earlier arrivals, in rows going up the hill which was our ultimate destination. So after changing our clothes and collecting certain items which we thought would be useful for a lengthy concert in a field, we trudged up the hill. We were entertained on the way by the different "hippie style" vehicles we passed--painted vans and cars with peace signs all over them, and folks tailgating under canopies. It was great.

We got into the venue a little bit before 5 pm, which was the scheduled time for the concert. So we had to skip the crafts market which was set up inside--too bad, it looked very inviting (and when i checked it out later on, I was sorry we hadn't had time to come earlier and browse.) We collected our rented lawn chairs, and found ourselves some space on the lawn looking down at the stage (it is a set-up like the PNC Bank Center in Holmdel, with a stage area with covered reserved seating, and an outdoor lawn seating area.) It was a people-watcher's paradise, with a crowd full of old longhairs (older than us! Or at least they sure looked it!!) and bankers, elderly people and babies. Lots of tie-dyed clothing, loose flowing skirts, tattoos, etc. It was really amazing. Unfortunately they didn't allow cameras into the concert, and i am such a good citizen that i followed the rools (plus, my old camera is too large to hide!) So, no photos of the crowd, I am sorry to say (i'm thinking i can use Google Image search and find some contraband photos that way!)

The concert was really great. We sat there in the cooling evening listening to Big Brother and the Holding Company (with a great lead singer who was a very good stand-in for Janis), Canned Heat (they were fantastic), Ten Years After, Jefferson Starship, Mountain, and Country Joe McDonald. The concert ended with the Levon Helm Band, but by the time Mountain was halfway finished, Joe and I had had enough--we'd been awake since 6 a.m., and it was already about 11 pm--we'd been at the concert for 6 hours so far. The air had cooled down and I felt sticky and chilly. I am kind of disappointed not to have heard Levon Helm, but oh well! We trekked on back down the hillside parking lot, which had a lot of gaps in it this time, and tiredly drove Mo back to the Walmart parking lot about 10 miles away. It was a long but very fun day. And, we added the New York state sticker to our sticker map--yay!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Best Picture: some guy that takes care of our health on the Merry Go round!

Great Pictures and great travel stories.

Tom M