The event actually happened in Bethel, NY, making it temporarily the third largest city in the state. The establishment saw it as a mud strewn, drug fueled orgy set to music that exemplified the counter culture.
The young people saw it as an expression of free love and harmony with an awesome musical backdrop that showed the power of community and exemplified the counter culture.
Both views had a basis in fact but, as with most historic events, the myths tend to get greater traction than the truth. Here are a few of the facts as best they can be determined. The overwhelming numbers of festival goers easily torn down the fences and ticket booths and the concert producers were forced to declare it a free festival very quickly. An estimated , actually attended the festival.
Traffic caused many to abandon their vehicles but despite the on stage proclamation by Arlo Guthrie that the festival shut down the New York State Thruway, this too was an overstatement. A lack of available sanitation, food, water, and security for the crowds meant that, for some, the concert made for an uncomfortable experience.
Help came from unexpected avenues. Despite the anti-war stance of most of the festival goers, the festival was made possible with the intervention of military from Stewart Air Force Base who airlifted food, medical teams, and even performers in and out of the site as well as one expectant mother who would give birth in a nearby hospital.
A local Jewish community center hearing of the lack of food made sandwiches and had nuns distribute them to the hungry crowd. Official reports to the New York State Health Department stated there were 5, medical cases attended during the festival with of these being drug related.
Two deaths were attributed to drug overdose, one likely from heroin. LSD, marijuana, psilocybin in the form of mushrooms, mescaline, amphetamines, cocaine, and opium were all in use during the weekend by attendees and performers alike. The legendary performances were as great as those who declined and lived to regret not being a part of the event.
Santana was high on mescaline because his performance time moved up dramatically but still giving an amazing performance. Iron Butterfly was stuck at the airport. Joni Mitchell was advised not to attend for fear of missing her guest spot on the Dick Cavett Show.
Those performers who made it were destined for history. Despite the massive turnout, the concert promoters ended up over a million dollars in debt. Luckily, they sought out to document the happening and the resulting film helped eliminate debt as well as preserve the historical event.
Released in , it was a massive commercial hit and helped Warner Brothers to rebound from the brink of being out of business. The documentary sought to not only record the concert but also the impressions of the townspeople and concert goers. Although drug use at the festival was minimized in the film to make it more profitable commercially, it still documents one of the most culturally significant events of the s.
Within a year, Woodstock performers such as Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix would be gone due to drug overdoses. Woodstock was a weekend that encapsulated the s. It was communal; it was rebellion. It was sex, drugs, and rock and roll. It was peace, love, and harmony. It was Woodstock, never to be forgotten, never to be duplicated. We are a not-for-profit c 3 organization CALL: