Before mid-August in 1969, no one knew just how big the Woodstock music festival would become. It was organized by people who had originally just wanted to build a music studio in the upstate New York village. When word got out that a event was in the works, locals had fought to cancel it. And, while over 50,000 tickets were sold in advance of the event, ultimately more than 400,000 flooded to the venue on Max Yasgur’s dairy farm.
What unfolded over the next three days from August 15-18, 1969 became legendary—as a music event and as a generational moment. As a long-haired man identified as "Speed" told the New York Times on August 18, 1969, "The whole thing is a gas. I dig it all, the mud, the rain, the music, the hassles." Below are five things that made Woodstock so memorable.
Woodstock’s organizers ran out of time to put up fencing around the venue.
During the months leading up to the festival, Woodstock’s organizers faced an all-out war from locals who tried to stop the event. While the village of Woodstock, New York had been home to a group of artistic, idealistic people since the early 20th century, many residents of the older generation considered the young "hippies" to be slackers and even, in some cases, dangerous.
Over the years the village had passed ordinances that targeted behaviors like shirtlessness, public consumption of alcohol and loitering. When word got out that a music festival was being planned, the village’s board passed a slew of regulations that effectively halted the festival’s prospects in the town of Wallkill. That’s when organizers found a new home for the event on a dairy farm in nearby Bethel, New York.
A last-minute scramble to prepare for the concerts meant that there was no time to build fences around the venue. They stopped selling tickets, word was out—and all bets were off. Youth from around the country were on their way to Bethel.