BETHEL, N.Y. — They helicoptered over crowds into the Woodstock festival and hiked in past abandoned cars. They danced at dawn on a muddy hillside and dodged drenching rain. They barely slept, phoned Mom to say they were OK and marveled at their sheer numbers. They left behind sodden socks and sleeping bags, but gained an enduring sense of community.
Fifty years later, memories of the anarchic weekend of Aug. 15-18, 1969, remains sharp among people who were in the crowd and on the stage for the historic festival.
Here are their recollections of the Woodstock festival.
GOING UP TO THE COUNTRY
Woodstock was staged 80 miles (130 kilometers) northwest of New York City on a bucolic hillside owned by dairy farmer Max Yasgur. It was a great spot for peaceful vibes, but miserable for handling the hordes coming in by car.
Rock photographer Henry Diltz got to the site early during the setup: “All these hippie carpenters were sawing and hammering, building this huge plywood deck right at the bottom of this big, green hillside. It was like being on an aircraft carrier. The green alfalfa was waving in the breeze … It was all wonderful. It was like summer camp … And then suddenly one day there were people sitting up there on the hillside and at first I thought, ‘What the hell are they doing up there?’ and then ‘Oh yeah, right, I forgot. There’s going to be (a concert).'”
Ilene Marder, an 18-year-old traveling up from the Bronx: “People were abandoning their cars — not on the side of the road, but ON the road … I was very responsible then, ‘You can’t just leave your car in the middle of the road!’ But everyone did … There was an immediate sense that something was happening that never happened before.”