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The Little-Known Chaos That Came With Woodstock

Woodstock. The mere name evokes imagery of a musical time that simply doesn’t exist anymore. Pretty much everyone’s heard of Woodstock, even if you’re not a music junkie, or a fan of classic bands. What you may not know though, is that for such a glorified festival, there sure were a lot of issues.

Location, Location, Location

For one, the festival wasn’t actually located in its namesake of Woodstock, New York. Originally, the festival was supposed to take place at Howard Mills Industrial Park in a different part of New York. Even after the organizers put $10,000 down to rent it, they didn’t believe it had the right atmosphere or tone for what they were trying to accomplish. On top of that, the town that held the industrial park didn’t want a massive number of “hippies” to descend upon it.

So suddenly, there was just a slight problem standing in the way of this big-time event- it had no home. Up until a month before the festival, a venue still hadn’t been secured. Luckily, dairy farmer Max Yasgur agreed to rent out his property in the White Lake area of Bethel, about 43 miles outside of Woodstock, which turned out to be a perfect fit.

More People, More Problems

Woodstock was riddled with logistical problems nearly every step of the way. As soon as one thing was taken care of, another problem would pop up. Certain essential items (like having ticket booths, and fencing off certain areas) were taken care of last-minute, just as crowds stormed in. Among what was also missing were concession stands, rooms for the artists, and even bathrooms. The organizers were much more focused on the food, entertainment, and overall quality of the performances. For those reasons, everything else was forced to take a back seat.

Photo: commons.wikimedia.org/Mark Goff

The official number of attendees landed somewhere between 400,000 and a million people. Yes, that’s a wide gap, but again, organizers didn’t exactly make the greatest effort of keeping track. In the audience, there was a steady stream of chaos. As much as the messaging of the festival was peace and love, it turned out there was some violence sprinkled in there as well. With only 12 officers in total to cover the entire large-scale event, Max Yasgur got so freaked out by the behavior of some people that he ended up spraying seltzer and throwing pies on anyone who he caught getting too rowdy.

But In The End…

Of the many artists asked to perform at Woodstock, some huge names actually turned down the opportunity. The Rolling Stones, John Lennon, The Doors, Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, and Led Zeppelin passed on being a part of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

But in spite of all that went wrong at Woodstock, as well as the absence of various legendary artists who chose not to be in attendance, the event was still a massive success, and will still go down in history as one of the greatest music festivals of all time- if not the greatest.