When thinking of the most important musical events of the 20th century, it’s very likely that Woodstock comes to mind. As an iconic music festival in 1969, Woodstock represented more than a series of concerts. Though it would be most associated with music, Woodstock presented a cultural revolution that was taking place on American soil. The hippie movement would not last as long as people hoped for, but the influence of Woodstock continues to influence modern-day society.
However, did you know that this iconic festival almost didn’t happen? In fact, there were some serious caveats that almost put the nail in the coffin for Woodstock. To show you how the festival came to be and what threatened it, we’ll be taking you through a brief history of the Woodstock music festival.
When it began, the planning for Woodstock was not as ambitious as the final festival turned out to be. Created by Joel Rosenman, Artie Kornfield, John Roberts and Michael Lang, Woodstock was meant to be a modest music festival in Upstate New York. It was named after the town in which it would be hosted (Woodstock, New York), but this quickly become impossible once larger acts began signing onto the festival.
Many bands weren’t interested at first, but once Creedence Clearwater Revival agreed to play the festival, big names started flooding in. The attention of mainstream celebrities began to inflate the image of Woodstock, eventually leading to it being one of the most anticipated events of the year.
The increasing notoriety of Woodstock also brought with it some complications. As the size of the festival continued to grow, the promoters found out that they no longer had a location for the gathering! The town of Woodstock had become insecure about the size of the audience, causing them to deny the festival the land previously budgeted for.
As you can imagine, this was an incredibly distressing blow to those who were planning the festival. In fact, this was the main reason why Woodstock almost never happened!
An Unexpected Solution
After trying to find a solution, it seemed like the festival would not be able to happen after all. However, an unexpected solution came in the form of Max Yasgur, a dairy farmer who lived in Bethel, New York. For about $10,000, he rented his 600 acres of land to the festival promoters so they could still have the event. Though it was about 50 miles away from the original location, the festival was able to continue and retained the Woodstock name.
Peace, Love and Music
Now that they had a new location, Woodstock could actually begin. Though the promoters sold about 185,000 tickets and expected about 200,000 people to show up, over 400,000 people stormed the dairy farm when the weekend began.
This pressured the promoters into making the festival free due to the commotion, something that enticed even more people to make the trip out. Though it was a wild event, Woodstock represented a turning point in both American music and culture, setting a precedent for music festivals in the decades to come!