Today In History: Woodstock Ends
Today was the closing day of the Woodstock Music Festival in 1969, the most famous music festival in American history. Billed as “Three Days of Peace and Music,” Woodstock was one of the hallmark cultural moments of the sixties counterculture.
The festival was originally conceived as a fundraising measure for a new music studio, to be built near Woodstock, New York. When the organizers couldn’t find a suitable venue in town, they held it at a dairy farm in Bethel, about fifty miles outside of Woodstock.
Nobody anticipated how popular the festival would be – opening day saw thousands of people arrive. Confronted with the massive crowd, the organizers decided to open the gates and make the festival free. In total, about 500,000 people attended Woodstock.
Major acts played to the giant crowd, in the midst of a rainstorm. The gathered hippies danced and wallowed in mud.
There was inadequate infrastructure to handle that many people. There were not enough toilets, and not enough medical supplies. Nevertheless, while chaotic, the festival was mostly free of serious incident. One person died of drug overdose, and another was run over by a tractor.
The festival is today remembered as a symbolically important expression of the “Free Love” ethic of the sixties, as well as the anti-Vietnam War sentiment of the time.
Music festivals are now a very mainstream and de-politicized, popular part of American culture.