by Gabrielle MacLellan From August 15-18, 1969 The Woodstock Festival which has now become an icon of the 1960s hippie counterculture took place on a dairy farm in a town outside of White Lake, New York. The Woodstock music festival was organized by John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, Artie Kornfeld, and Mike Lang. Their plan was to use the festival as a fundraiser for a recording studio they wanted to build in Woodstock, New York.
A location was found in an industrial park in Wallkill, New York for the music festival. Tickets that could be purchased in select store or through mail order were printed for $7 for one day, $13 for two days, and $18 for three days. Food, musicians and security were also being planned.
A month and a half before the Woodstock festival was scheduled to begin problems started to arise. Originally the festival was planned to be held in Wallkill, however despite the attempts of the organizers and their lawyers the town citizens did not want so many drugged out hippies going to their town. A law was passed on July 2, 1969 that banned the concert from the town.
Everyone who was involved with The Woodstock Festival panicked. The stores selling the tickets refused to sell them and negotiations with the musicians became shaky. In the middle of July Max Yasgur offered the use of his 600 acre dairy farm in Bethel, New York. Finding a new location however did not solve all of the problems as now the timeline for the preparations for the festival had some serious setbacks. New contracts and Permits for the new location had to be acquired.
Work on the stage, a pavilion for the performers, parking lots, concession stands, and a playgroup for children all started being built later then planned, these items got finished just in time. Some items like ticket booths and gates were not finished in time. The original estimate soon appeared to be too low and a new estimate jumped to 200000. Organizers attempted to bring in more water, toilets and food. The people running the concessions threatened to cancel last minute multiple times as organizers hired people with no previous concession experience. Another issue that arose was the last minute ban of off duty police officers providing security at the Woodstock Festival
Two days before the beginning of the festival there were still large gaps in the fence. These gaps allowed 50000 people to walk through and set up camp near the stage. There was no possibility of making all of these people exit and re-enter to pay for tickets. There also was no way to get so many gates to cover the openings to prevent more people to enter without payment. The organizers had no choice but to turn the Woodstock Music festival into a free event.
Turning the festival into a free concert had two main effects, first of all it meant that the organizers where going to lose a large some of money that they put into putting on the event. The other main effect was that when news spread about the now free event an estimated one million people made their way to Bethel, New York. Police had to turn away thousands of vehicles and it is estimated about 500000 people successfully made it to the Woodstock Festival.
Nobody had expected half a million people to come to the festival, the highway surrounding the area became parking lots and people left their cars in the middle of streets to walk the final distance into the festival. The traffic situation became so bad that the organizers unexpectedly had to hire helicopters to get the performers from their hotels to the stage.
The festival got started almost on time Friday the 15 of August, the festival was officially started by Richie Havens. Music began again Saturday just after noon. The Saturday performers went without stopping until around 9 AM Sunday morning. On Sunday it was apparent that the festival was winding down. Throughout the day most of the crowd left. By the time the last performer, Jimi Hendrix, finished his set early Monday morning only aproximently 25000 remained in the crowd. The Woodstock Music Festival was huge success despite lines 30 minute long for water, and at least an hour long to use the washroom. The organizers did not have time to focus on the fact that they had created the most popular music event in history. The focus had to be on the million dollar debt they created and the 70 lawsuits that had been filed against them. To their relief the film on the Festival turned into a hit movie and its profits covered all but $100000 of the debt.