The most iconic music festival of the 1960s (and perhaps ever) was meant to be “A weekend in the country” for about 100,000 lucky festival goers. But when the venue was moved at the last second, no one could’ve imagined that half a million people would show up and rock the concert of the ages. Food and water was scarce, and rain poured hard, but the community feeling overpowered logistical problems and those who attended witnessed something never to be repeated. The feelings of love and peace felt in that special weekend in 1969 were difficult for them to describe, but photos of the event allow us to experience just a little bit of that magical time and place in history.

1. Gracious Hosts

Max and Miriam Yasgur were the happy hosts in Bethel, New York for the greatest music festival in history. Woodstock was originally planned for about 100,000 people but over half a million showed up. Despite the absolute mess and the fact that his neighbors were so upset (he was no longer welcome in the town’s general store) Yasgur and his wife were happy to be a part of the moment.

Close to the end of the festival, Max Yasgur addressed the masses and summed it up when he said, “You are the largest group of people ever assembled in one place at one time… we had no idea there would be this many… and you have proven something to the world… that half a million kids can get together for fun and music and have nothing but fun and music.”

2. Kicking it off

The festivities began on August 15th with a performance by Richie Havens followed by Sweetwater at 6:15 p.m. (Sweetwater got stuck in traffic on the way). Yasgur’s words were correct in that so many people came together and made the whole thing work by embracing some of the best of human behaviors: sharing, caring, and loving. Perhaps it was the words of spiritual master Sri Swami Satchidananda (who spoke right after Sweetwater) that instilled the spirit that prevailed over the course of the next three days.

“Sound energy, sound power, is much, much greater than any other power in this world. And, one thing I would very much wish you all to remember is that with sound, we can make — and at the same time, break… And with all my heart, I wish a great, great success in this music festival to pave the way for many more festivals in many other parts of this country.”

3. Love in the air

Jefferson Airplane was scheduled to be the headliner for Saturday August 16th, but didn’t end up playing until Sunday morning. Sometime before 8 a.m., weary crowds raised their heads as Jefferson Airplane sang them awake. All of the sudden, the couple below stood up and shared a kiss and a smile before she rested her head on her lover’s shoulder.

This photo became an iconic image of Woodstock embodying the love that seemed to permeate through the air. Bobbi Kelly and her then-boyfriend Nick Ercoline shared this moment and many more, as some years later they married and had two kids together.

4. Music

Woodstock was a music festival for the ages, featuring legendary bands such as Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Who, and legendary artists such as Santana and Jimi Hendrix. It’s a little surprising that these two women are the only ones moving to the rhythm, but they’re certainly dancing enough for the whole crowd.

The magic of music festivals are sometimes feverish, traveling through the air and infecting everyone with the same sort of energy. Joni Mitchell, who Rolling Stone called “one of the best songwriters ever” said, “Woodstock was a spark of beauty where half-a-million kids saw that they were part of a greater organism.”

5. Traffic

Woodstock was advertised as “a weekend in the country” and wasn’t even called Woodstock at the beginning. At first it was “An Aquarian Exposition, Three Days of Peace and Music,” until the namesake of the group that promoted the concert became the name etched into the history books. In fact, Woodstock wasn’t even in Woodstock.


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