Woodstock, the legendary music and art festival, was by far the largest and the most-promoted event of the 60s. It became, shortly after it had happened, a synonym for flower power and the whole hippie movement, whose myth is still unbroken. Nearly everybody has seen some pictures of rain and mud with the dancing flower children and can imagine the extraordinary atmosphere of the event.
Woodstock was the idea of four young men: John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, Artie Kornfeld, and Michael Lang. The oldest of the four was 26 (who?). Their original idea was to have it in Wallkill, which is in the state of New York, but after protests by the village population, it had to be moved to a farm about eight miles outside of Bethel, also in NY. There were objections from this city as well, but a permit had already been purchased to have a concert, so not much could be done about it.
In early April, they began to promote their festival in magazines such as "The Village Voice" and "Rolling Stone." The four promoters settled on the slogan: "Three Days of Peace and Music." They thought that "peace" would link antiwar sentiment to the festival.
Actually, Woodstock was planned as a commercial three-day festival for a crowd of about 50,000, but it got out of hand and became a chaotic but peaceful giant event with approximately 500,000 in attendance. Nobody knows the exact attendance because so many more than expected showed up that the barriers could no longer contain the crowd. So the organizers announced that admission would be free, and participants were admitted without a ticket and were not counted.
The festival was supposed to take place from August 15 to 17, 1969, but in fact it ended the morning of August 18. For four days, nearly half a million people built their own nation, established their own cultural rules, and the site became a place in which drugs were all but legal, music was plentiful, and love was free. Although the conditions were terrible--lack of food, sparse sanitation facilities, drugs, alcohol, and mud, to name only a few of the problems--there were no violent acts and only two deaths (and two births, by the way) at the festival.
Drugs were a big problem; nearly ninety percent of the people there were smoking marijuana, and drug intake was undoubtedly one of the most important aspects of Woodstock. Almost everyone took drugs; it was distributed freely, like food or water. In fact, drugs were more widely available than food and sanitary facilities. But drugs brought the people together and made the festival one of peace and love. Medical tents were set up for people going through bad experiences with LSD, but there were no problems with violence.
The food shortage was another problem because so many people showed up and the festival organizers were not prepared. Constant airlifts were operated between the site and outlying areas, bringing in a total of 1,300 pounds of canned food, sandwiches, and fruit.
Some of the biggest stars of the time were absent. The Beatles, The Rollings Stones, and Bob Dylan (who lived nearby) did not show up. However, there where 32 top-class artists and groups of the folk, rock, and blues scene, such as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and The Who, who acted as magnets for music fans all around the country.
In all, there were about one million people on their way to this spectacle, but many of them got stuck in the traffic chaos and had to turn back. Woodstock organizers later blamed the state police for the traffic jams. These problems caused the cost of the festival to grow colossally, and musicians, food, and medical care had to be delivered by helicopter. So the organizers did not achieve commercial success until release of the movie and the album about Woodstock.
In the end, Woodstock became the forerunner of all outdoor concerts. It went down in history as the biggest rock event of the 20th century.