In the Summer of '69, a couple of extremely rich young men wanted to create something they could invest in related to entertainment, art and creativity. After initially planning a TV series and an artists' colony, they decided to hold a festival in a field, with a few big name acts. After a long fight to get it done, they got a deal with farmer Max Yasgur. The festival was called the Woodstock Music and Art Fair.
Originally tickets were sold by mail and through magazine ads, with plans to sell more at the door. Over 100,000 tickets were sold, but people started arriving several days early, before the fence and ticket gates were completed; faced with the choice between completing the stage and completing the fence, the promoters decided to get the stage in order and call it a free concert. With such an open invitation in place, over 500,000 people are believed to have shown up. Then it got worse.
Woodstock was a giant catastrophe: The bands couldn't get to the concert and had to be flown in. Food and other facilities were ostensibly planned for 50,000 (even though the aforementioned 100,000 tickets had been sold), but city councilmen and others noted that the provisions weren't even sufficient for that number, leading to the National Guard airlifting in food and water by helicopter. There was lots of rain and a giant storm struck, shutting it down for hours and two people accidentally diednote .
But at the same time the festival was noted for its sense of peace. The crowd was so peaceful over the three days that even the mainstream media like The New York Times praised the event for being so orderly with a well behaved audience. People were getting along and showing love to each other. Not only that, but the roster of bands were great. These included The Who, The Band, Janis Joplin, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Canned Heat, Ten Years After, Joe Cocker, Santana, The Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Joan Baez and Jimi Hendrix, to name a few.
The festival was filmed and turned into the documentary of the same name, which proved so big a box office hit that its earnings more than paid off the losses from the festival itself. Besides the famous original three-record vinyl album and the followup two-record set Woodstock Two, there have been several CD box sets, several DVD releases of the film, and the independent, unauthorized Woodstock Complete project. The latest version is 2014's which includes interviews, radio coverage and art.
In August 2019, Back to the Garden, an authorized complete version of the 1969 Woodstock Music & Art Fair, will be released on Rhino Records. The product of painstaking research and audio production, it has 38 audio discs plus a Blu-ray of the film and will cost $800.
The festival's original location is currently home to The Bethel Woods Center For the Arts. When visiting, be sure to check out it's honest-to-goodness Woodstock Museum, which gives an in-depth look at the '60s counter-culture that birthed the event, as well as the events leading up to it.