On this day in 1969, the Woodstock Music Festival kicked off on a patch of farmland in Bethel, New York. Today, the festival is fondly remembered as a symbol of 1960s counterculture. See how much you know about the festival with these five far out facts…
Over 400,000 People Were in Attendance. The promoters originally expected around 50,000 attendees. That number then swelled to 200,000. But when the gates opened on August 15, 1969, over 400,000 people had made the pilgrimage to the small town of Bethel, NY about 50 miles from the festival's namesake, Woodstock, NY. There were so many people that festival organizers ran out of food on the first day. Attendees ate sandwiches provided by volunteers and some resorted to drinking milk straight from cows. Surprisingly, however, there were no reports of violence and only a few drug-related arrests throughout the three-day event.
32 of Music's Biggest Names Performed Over the Weekend Woodstock may have been disorganized regarding crowd control, but the organizers did a very, very good job of putting together the line-up of artists. 32 of folk and rock music's biggest bands and artists performed from Friday to Monday, including Joe Cocker, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and The Who. Performers also included Ravi Shankar, and the festival was officially opened with words from Sri Swami Satchidananda, who was one of the people who introduced yoga practices to the West. At Woodstock, he led a mass chant of "OM" and was nicknamed the Woodstock Guru.
The Crowds Were So Big That the County Declared the Site a Disaster Area Woodstock was organized to an extent, but crowd control kind of got out of hand. The festival was originally planned for a different site about 30 miles from Woodstock, NY, but the town where it was going to be held managed to ban the festival. Max Yasgur's farm, near Bethel, NY, seemed like a good candidate. Yasgur was a conservative who was also dedicated to freedom of expression, and he allowed the organizers to rent out farmland for the concert. However, that fast change of location meant that the concert wasn't set up to collect money for tickets -- or even collect the tickets themselves -- so the organizers declared it a free concert. As a result, people showed up in more than droves, overwhelming any available food, water, and sanitation resources. Rain and the resulting muddy, cold conditions didn't help. Sullivan County declared the farm a disaster area, and the state's governor, Nelson Rockefeller, almost sent military troops in to help control the crowd.
The Owner of The Dairy Farm Refused to Allow Another Festival Why was there no Woodstock 1970 at Max Yasgur's farm? He wouldn't allow it. Yasgur's decision to allow the concert in 1969 met with a lot of resistance and some hostility from neighbors. While Yasgur himself didn't appear to be angry about what happened, he refused to let organizers hold another festival on his land in 1970 and claimed he was just going back to being a dairy farmer.
Jimi Hendrix Performed -- After Half of the Attendees Had Already Started to Leave What a way to wrap up Woodstock -- and what a way to start a workweek. Woodstock wrapped up on Monday morning with a two-hour set by Jimi Hendrix. He started playing at 9 a.m., when people had already started leaving to go back to their regular lives but continued to play for two hours, one of the longest sets in his career. In fact, many people waited to see him start playing but then left during the set. Estimates put the Monday morning crowd at only about 200,000 people, down from 400,000 at the festival's peak. Hendrix didn't play with the Experience as that band had already broken up. He had a temporary band that he played with at Woodstock. His performance, especially of "The Star-Spangled Banner," has become one of the more legendary performances of the rock era.