The crowd was much, much bigger than expected, which helped turn a music festival into the stuff of legend.
Photo Credit: John Dominis/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images
Fifty years ago, a farm in Bethel, New York, traded 650 Guernsey cows for 400,000 human beings and a lot—a whole lot—of drugs. A few of those humans were famous, and were there to play music for the rest of them.
The occupation there was brief, but intensive. It was August 1969, and the site has been widely interpreted as a kind of mass ritual gathering.
It’s also been interpreted as Woodstock.“For many hippies,” says Damon Bach, a historian at Texas A&M University, “it was three halcyon days where they were immersed in their ideal microsociety.
”Woodstock brings certain sounds and images to mind. Jimi Hendrix’s iconic “Star Spangled Banner.” Joe Cocker’s croon. Sha Na Na’s anachronism.
Masses of people rolling around in mud, if just for a little while. And when the last notes of Hendrix’s “Hey Joe” faded, there was little to do in Bethel besides head home. But not before cleaning up.
Archaeologists excavate test units in the general area of the stage. Public Archaeology Facility, Binghamton University
Since the concert, not much has happened on the Woodstock site.
There have been some anniversary events, sure, but nothing even remotely approaching the scale and impact of the first.
This makes life easier for the archaeologists who have been digging into the material history of the legendary festival.
Over the past two years, researchers from Binghamton University, in conjunction with the Museum at Bethel Woods, conducted excavations and surveys on the site, to see what 72 hours of peace and love look like 50 years later.