I’m not sure when it happened. Maybe it was high school, maybe Ithaca, perhaps the War in Iraq part II, but somewhere along the line I turned into a world-class, 21st century hippie. Jimi Hendrix has been my favorite artist since I was 16, I named my bumper sticker covered Camry Woodstook, but my dream car is a VW bus, hand painted of course. Being the modern day peace and love fighter that I am, I had to make the pilgrimage to the original epicenter of peace, love and rock and roll, the site of the Woodstock Music Festival.
Although called Woodstock, the site of the festival is actually in the town of Bethel, NY, a.k.a. the middle of nowhere. The main stage is nothing more than gravel today, but I swear the whole area has electricity in the air, probably still radiating from Janis Joplin’s iconic vocals. Today, the site is home to a museum commemorating the concert and the civil rights movement that is well worth your $10.
The museum is filled with vintage cars, a movie theater bus, and audio of concert goers reflecting on their time at the show. The best part, by far, is a mini replica of the main stage, complete with bean bag chairs and a giant screen playing clips of the show. Kick back on a bean bag chair and let yourself slip back to 1969.
Strolling around the grounds has the opposite feeling of walking a battlefield; it feels like something truly wonderful happened there. When the show was at its peak, its 400,000+ concert goers formed the second largest city in New York State. All those people, all those drugs, the extreme lack of soap and most of every other social convention, and all that was produced was good vibes. In the words of Max Yasgur, the owner of the farm that the concert was held on:
“I think you people have proven something to the world….a half million young people can get together and have three days of fun and music and have nothing but fun and music, and I God Bless You for it!”
There is a somewhat solemn element of walking the grounds, we haven’t had that spirit here since 1969. What in the world happened to the counter culture? Where have the militants for peace, love and equality gone? We’re living through an era that has the most social tension since the 60’s, but the current generation of young people have yet to rise to the occasion. It’s time once more to turn on, tune in and drop out. Perhaps we can reignite the struggle for a more just, equitable and loving society.
Bonus points if you can find the peace sign in the lawn.