Great music and free sandwiches weren’t the only ways that people kept themselves entertained at Woodstock. There was plenty of whimsy to go around, as seen by this woman jump-roping in the rain!
It’s difficult to imagine just how big Woodstock actually was, but this photograph should give you some idea. The festival grounds were truly vast, and the immense contingent of humanity who showed up to be a part of the joyous celebration has only rarely been seen before or since.
Hippies are famously all about balance, so when they weren’t dancing the ground into a mud pit or enjoying various illicit substances, they were congregating to engage in a spot of yoga. This was done in specially designated areas for maximum rest and relaxation.
Traffic for Days
If you’ve ever tried to get to the Isle of Wight Festival in time to see the opening act, you’ll know how bad traffic around live events can be. Woodstock 1969 was no different, with queues stretching all the way from the festival site itself to Manhattan. Statewide, radio presenters even began broadcasting the chaos, hoping to dissuade more people from showing up!
Hippies might be famous for loving and protecting the environment, but they’re not wizards. With over 400,000 people in such a small footprint, there was not much anyone could do to stop the festival site from becoming a swamp of discarded drink bottles and mud-soaked blankets.
The Woodstock 1969 line-up was so legendary that many of the headlines are still etched into music history today. Janice Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and unofficial band of the anti-war movement Creedence Clearwater Revival all graced the stage alongside the Joe Cocker Band, pictured above.
Taking It All in
If Woodstock 1969 is famous for anything, it’s the vibe. With the free love movement at its height and thousands of hippies gathered together in a town famed for its grassroots artistic history, is it any wonder that many patrons found themselves overcome by emotion? Of course, they may have been under the influence of more than just great music…
Fashion of the Time
The music and sexual politics of the hippie movement was not the only thing about them that drew the ire of conventional America. Their liberation was also reflected in their outfits, which showed enough skin to scandalise anyone in the suburbs.
Hog Farm Bus
Woodstock was a homing ground for many of the active hippie communes, including The Hog Farmers, a historic group that is still around today! You can recognise them by their fabled Hog Farm Bus, which sports hand-painted psychedelia to spread a message of love and peace.
Running Out of Supplies
Woodstock wasn’t all flower crowns and free love, it was actually very nearly a disaster. Over double the estimated amount of attendants showed up, leading to a food shortage that was only solved by a Jewish community centre bringing over 200 loaves of bread, 40 pounds of deli meat, and two gallons of pickles to the festival site.
Under the Wheels
Though hippies definitely have a “go with the flow” approach to life, even they must have tired of the rain after 48 hours of continuous moisture. That explains why they took shelter everywhere they could find it, from under wagons to improvised blanket tents.
Preparing For The Event
Even without taking the unprecedentedly high attendance numbers into account, there was a lot to prepare to ensure Woodstock went off without a hitch. Part of those preparations involved hitching people up in steel oil drums, yikes!
If you’ve ever been to a music festival, you’ll know that the further into the weekend it gets the more chaotic the energy becomes. That’s why people have been known to eschew the bands for activities like this one: leaping from wooden playgrounds into piles of hay.
Just like today, many couples alighted on Woodstock in 1969 as an opportunity to kick back, relax and celebrate their love for one another in a minimally-policed space. How adorable are these two, cuddled up on the campground with flowers they’d just picked?
Better Vantage Points
Nowadays, even if you’re not close to the stage at a festival you’re likely to have a pretty good view, due to the giant screens projecting the bands out to the back row. In 1969, this technology was nowhere near as far along, leading to fans taking the initiative in all sorts of ways.
Playing In The Mud
Plenty of festivals have a reputation for being muddy, from Reading and Leeds to Download to Glastonbury. However, very few can claim to have Woodstock in the late 60s beat, as the mud was so intense that many people were covered from head to toe… whether they chose to mud-slide or not!
A Packed House
Funnily enough, Woodstock Music Festival was originally supposed to be held in the town of Woodstock itself. However, locals quickly rejected that idea and, after a few false starts, dairy farmer Max Yasgur’s property was selected. Yasgur was assured no more than 50,000 people would attend… which obviously wasn’t the case.
A Musical Moment
You may be familiar with the Woodstock emblem of a dove resting on a guitar, but that imagery was not actually created for the first iteration of the festival. David Edward Byrd, pictured above, designed the first-ever Woodstock poster.
The Magic Bus
If you’ve ever read the beloved classic One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest then you’re definitely aware of author Ken Kesey. What might you might not be aware of is that Kesey lived in a commune called the Merry Pranksters, whose members all boarded a school bus called Further to travel cross-country, eventually ending up at Woodstock in 1969.
The Opening Act
Richie Havens was the first artist to take to the stage at Woodstock, but that wasn’t actually the original plan. Sweetwater, who were supposed to play in the opening 5PM slot, were stopped by police en route, while other bands, unfortunately, got stuck in traffic. Typical!
So Many Hippies
Though uncommon today, there have been documented instances of festivals with far more people in attendance than originally planned. What’s even rarer is for a festival itself to run over by an entire day, which is what happened during Woodstock 1969 due to inclement weather and thunderstorms.
Though Woodstock is rightly remembered as a hippie festival, there was far more than just one genre of music to enjoy. Janis Joplin and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young played alongside The Who and Grateful Dead, and Jefferson Airplane even made an appearance!
Bring in the Police
Despite the huge turnout, fabled proliferation of substances both legal and illicit and legendary free love atmosphere – only 33 people were actually arrested during Woodstock 1969… at least on possession charges. Either everyone else was incredibly well-behaved, or it just wasn’t possible to put away everyone breaking the rules.
A mainstay of both music festivals and gatherings of people in the hippie community is the iconic ‘jam sesh’, where people spontaneously get together to perform covers, improvise music and collaborate on sprawling, freeform instrumentation.
Talk About a Wild Party
With mud as far as the eye could see in any direction, the constant rain was not sufficient to keep people clean during Woodstock. Therefore, people turned to the rivers and ponds as a stand-in for baths, which helped with the dirt but not with the cold.
Worth the Damages
Given how unprecedentedly huge Woodstock 1969 actually was, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it must have turned an enormous profit. Unfortunately, the opposite was actually true: the organisers ended up so far in debt due to talent fees and damages that they did not finish paying it all back until the 80s!
Not Safe for All Ages
Introducing their children to festival life is a rite of passage for many parents involved in all kinds of music subcultures, but two women actually took this idea even further. Not just one, but two women went into labour while at Woodstock, though they were thankfully rushed to the hospital to actually have the babies.
Not Ideal Weather…
The constant deluge was not just a problem for festival patrons who couldn’t get warm, dry or clean. The rain also sparked concerns that many acts would be electrocuted during their sets, though this thankfully wasn’t the case. Several performances were postponed to avoid the most intense weather though.
A Natural Bowl
When choosing a festival site, geography is obviously of the utmost importance. However, you’d be forgiven for failing to take the actual topography into account. Max Yasgur’s farm was an ideal bowl shape – allowing people at the very back of the crowd to see the stage below them. Wow!
A Place For Rebels
Though Woodstock was mostly pretty wholesome despite the chaos, it wasn’t completely free of tragedy. One 17-year-old lost their life on the festival grounds when they were run over by a tractor that was picking up garbage in a nearby field, due to low visibility.
The Free Stage
So many Woodstock patrons were also skilled musicians that a stage was set up just to give them a place to express themselves. Called the Free Stage, this area had no set timetable or scheduled bands, and was instead a place for artists and performers to share their art on the fly!
The story of the hippie generation is one of two halves. Though they were famous for standing up for what is right, protesting and even destroying property when the situation called for it, they were also notably peaceful and harmony-loving. As a result, despite the huge numbers and slapdash organising, Woodstock was a pretty calm affair.
Woodstock 1969 became so synonymous with the dominant subculture of the time that the hippies of the 1960s were later renamed the Woodstock Nation. Even those who weren’t able to experience the event itself still considered the campgrounds a kind of spiritual home and cultural touchstone.
If you’re a professional flautist, then the last thing you want to do is bring your expensive, probably custom instrument to a place full of unwashed people, mud-soaked tents and temporary toilets. However, in the carefree spirit of Woodstock 1969, that’s exactly what this woman did!
Even if you’re travelling to a place you really want to be, the journey itself tends not to be the most exciting part. Nevertheless, when these seven strangers took a picture together on the side of the road while waiting for the intense pre-Woodstock traffic to clear, they accidentally captured the joy and anticipation of getting ready to go to a festival!
Here’s someone else who doesn’t seem too put out by the long traffic queues that everyone wanting to get to Woodstock had to brave! This might be the most hippie vehicle on the planet, with its slogans of “live for today” and “war is not healthy.” It’s probably painted a bright colour too!
25 Years Later
25 years after the first Woodstock, the festival was held again… but the atmosphere for wildly different. From the lead singer of psychedelic grunge band Blind Melon taking to the stage under the influence of acid and wearing his girlfriend’s dress, to Nine Inch Nails wrestling in the mud minutes before their set started, to Jackyl being dragged off stage by security after firing a rifle into the air, it was clear that Woodstock in the 90s was a very different beast.
Music festivals are wonderful: you get to see dozens of awesome bands while only paying one ticket price, you get to meet people with similar interests from all over the country or even the world, and you get to wear outfits that would be totally unacceptable outside of the grounds. With that said, festivals can also be overwhelming, so it’s important to rest and take regular breaks.
These two clearly had a wild weekend, as they found themselves without a way to get back to Boston after Woodstock wrapped up. Maybe their need to hitchhike had something to do with the fact that the festival ended a full day late due to the extensive rain?
Woodstock’s footprint just wasn’t big enough to accommodate all the people who wanted to attend, whether they bought tickets ahead of time or just snuck in on the day. As a result, several people got around the lack of ground space by camping in or on top of their cars, with the lucky ones having camper vans with a mattress included.
Richie Havens had the pretty difficult job of opening Woodstock and setting the tone for the entire event. After totally running out of songs he could play, he ended his set with the spiritual classic “Motherless Child” which went down a treat with the crowd.
When running an event of any size, genre or theme, the most important thing to know is how many people are going to be there. The organisers of Woodstock woefully underestimated the interest and attendance of their debut festival, and so ended up with ten times as many people as they’d planned and budgeted for. Yikes!
Low On Amenities
Since the scale of the event took even the organisers by surprise, it was kind of a scramble to ensure that Woodstock could be pulled off safely. Sullivan County declared a state of emergency, while New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller had to be convinced not to order 100,000 National Guard troops to the festival site.
As soon as organisers realised that the festival was going to be way bigger than anyone could have anticipated, contingencies were made. Volunteers were sourced to make and supply sandwiches, and medical supplies were dropped by helicopters to ensure everyone could have fun safely.
Crosby Takes The Stage
While Woodstock had plenty of huge bands and artists on its line-up in 1969, maybe the biggest draw of all was Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, a folk rock supergroup responsible for hits like Teach Your Children. In 1970, they released the song Woodstock.
In addition to the medical supplies air-lifted onto the festival site by concerned third parties, there was also a grassroots movement to keep attendees safe and happy. Many women took it upon themselves to erect and run “healing tents” of a variety of different persuasions.
Woodstock’s music and fashion might be legendary to those who grew up after the decline of the hippie movement but, for those who were there, the thing they remember most is probably the immense traffic jam that swallowed up roads to and from the festival site.
Janis Joplin wasn’t actually told about Woodstock until a few days before the event, but that didn’t stop her from becoming one of the biggest draws on the line-up. Unfortunately for her though, the ten-hour delay on the main stage meant that by the time she started performing.,. she was hammered.
No matter what country you’re in or what genre of event you’re attending, festival food is one of the biggest rip-offs in the world. Woodstock rejected the idea of paying exorbitant prices for a sliver of a burger or some half-cooked rice, and instead set up communal kitchens so everyone could eat for free.
Given that the traffic surrounding the festival site remained awful for the entire weekend, it makes sense that ambulances were not able to easily reach injured people while Woodstock 1969 was going on. That’s why medicine and common medical equipment were dropped off by helicopter early on.
Free For All
Woodstock 1969 was, like most music festivals around the globe and across history, originally ticketed. However, people hoping to snag a last-minute spot showed up in such enormous numbers that it was eventually deemed safer and more manageable to just let people in for free.
The 60s were not just the origin of the modern civil rights movement, they also birthed the first national push to legalise cannabis in the US. As a result, plenty of pro-legalisation pamphlets, signs and other materials could be found on-site at Woodstock.
The Most Popular Performers
The show stoppers for the day were the high-desired singers such as Hendrix, Carlos Santana, and David Brown, all showing up to please the crowds.
And of course, there were The Who stirring up the crowd after the shaky performance by Janis Joplin.
The people that were stuck in the traffic jams had nothing to do and they decided to bring out their instruments and start jamming on right there.
Denim All Around
Denim was popular in the era that everywhere that you looked, people were dressed up in striped shirts and jeans for the event.
Sleeping Wherever Possible
All the hotels were completely booked up and there were not enough tents around for everyone. The less fortunate people had to find new ways to sleep.
Sleeping In Cars
The lack of sleeping arrangements also forced people to return back to their abandoned cars in the traffic jams and just find shelter under their car’s roof.
People who had brought their cars had a lot of trouble finding places to park. However, there were some who came in on their motorcycles and they had quite a fun and easy time maneuvering around the grounds.
There is a common misconception around Woodstock and people believe that there were no children present at the event. However, that is not true and there were actually quite a number of kids present.
No Rest For The Weary
Falling asleep at the event can be quite difficult, understandably. However, we believe that all the booze that was there at the event must have helped people sleep.
More than being just a slogan, peace was a lifestyle at Woodstock. There were no reported events of violence during the entire event and it is quite shocking since there was a lot of alcohol and people in the mix.
No Need To Panic
The then governor of New York, Nelson Rockefeller, was quite nervous about the crowds that were gathering for Woodstock that he had even considered sending in the National Guard.
Look At The People
If you are having trouble imagining the number of people that had gathered for the festival, just take a look at the picture. That is 400,000 people gathered in one place.
Connecting With People
With the number of people that were gathered there, you would imagine that quite a lot of brawls and temperaments would have arose, but that was not the case. Woodstock produced quite a lot of positive vibes and personal connections that people formed among themselves.
Out Of Luck
The accommodations were quite scarce and so people had to go out of their way to be imaginative about making shelter. Here is a picture of some people who decided to go with true “stick-built” homes.
Sly & the Family Stone was one of the bands that performed during the festival. And Sly Stone really killed it on stage.
While there was no official Woodstock merchandise, there were many people who decided to cash in on the opportunity. They knew that they could take advantage of the large crowds and they set up their own stands.
Before Woodstock, Santana was a relatively unknown band. However, their performance brought in a lot of fans and their debut album ranked #4 on the US Billboard 200 chart.
Riding The Bus
There were several buses that were decorated in hippie artwork. These buses served as shelter for the people who could not find accomodations.
In order to keep up with the themes of the event, a lot of people had put up signage to mark the directions in the grounds surrounding the concert.
This couple got their van and were lucky enough to camp out in it. They also had a sword along with them to turn away any trespassers that might come by.
Grace Slick and Jefferson Airplane decided to use their time backstage to get to know each other better and that is clearly marked in the picture above.
Notes All Around
There were musical notes all around Woodstock. Whether you looked onstage or off, there was music everywhere.
Get Up On Top
The people who came in with their friends had quite a great time. They got up on each other’s shoulders and had a great view of the concerts.
Protestors saw the opportunity to make a statement at Woodstock. While there was no violence, there were many holding up signs and fighting for their cause.
There were only a few who were fortunate enough to get their vehicles through the traffic jams and make it to the concert in their cars. Others had to abandon their cars and walk.
Hop On The Bus
It is common knowledge that the hippies are willing to try anything. Here, we see them riding the bus but not in the conventional way.
There were many people who had dressed up to impress. While there were some who looked rather homely, there were quite a few attractive looking ladies at the concert.
Stimulating The Spirit
This was a time when people gathered and spent time to attain inner peace and enlightenment. Also, they got high and felt groovy at the same time.