Road From Woodstock To Bethel
Many people visit the town of Woodstock, NY to find Max and Miriam Yasgur’s farm because of the oft told, but inaccurate, story: that is where the Woodstock Music and Art Fair was.
Another inaccuracy is that the town of Woodstock denied Woodstock Venture’s request to hold it in the town itself.
Keep in mind that Michael Lang and Artie Kornfeld‘s original idea (one that Kornfeld has said was actually his wife’s idea) was to create a recording studio in Woodstock. Many musicians lived in, near, the often visited the town.
Though Bob Dylan was the most notable among those musicians, Bob’s band, The Band, was there of course and others included Janis Joplin, Richie Havens, Paul Butterfield, Van Morrison, John Sebastian, and even Jimi Hendrix.
(As an aside, it continues to confuse me why Lang and Kornfeld thought of studio would be a good idea when Albert Grossman was already doing just that and his Bearsville Studios would open in 1970.)
Lang and Kornfeld had proposed the studio idea to John Roberts and Joel Rosenman (already involved in Media Sound) in early February.
Road From Woodstock To Bethel
Their company, Woodstock Ventures, formed on February 28, 1969 (legally minus Kornfeld who was under contract to Capitol Records). Their general goals were to:
- a recording studio in Woodstock
- a music festival in nearby Saugerties (~ 10 miles away)
Road From Woodstock To Bethel
In a month, things happened quickly regarding the festival’s site.
- March 29, 1969, Michael Lang had found a suitable site in Saugerties, NY right off the NY Thruway. On this date, John Roberts and Joel Rosenman met with a Mr Holmes, the lawyer for the site’s owner, Mr Shaler. The lawyer emphatically told Roberts and Rosenman that the site was not for rent for such a purpose.
- March 30, 1969, after the Saugerties refusal, Roberts and Rosenman spoke to Howard Mills about a piece of land in Wallkill, NY that Mills was going to develop. Mills agreed to rent the site for the festival.
You will notice that the town of Woodstock was not part of the festival’s picture. It did not “refuse” or “kick out” Woodstock Ventures. And the owner of the proposed Saugerties site simply refused.
In other words. The…
Road to Woodstock
was actually the…
Road to Wallkill
which actually led to the…
Road to White Lake
but really to...
- Related link >>> YouTube for full “Woodstock” instrumental
13 thoughts on “Road From Woodstock To Bethel”
Would we be in Bethel?????
I often think what would have happened if Howard Mills gave Max speech to the Wallkill board-
“I hear you are considering changing the zoning law to prevent the festival. I hear you don’t like the look of the kids who are working at the site. I hear you don’t like their lifestyle. I hear you don’t like they are against the war and that they say so very loudly. . . I don’t particularly like the looks of some of those kids either. I don’t particularly like their lifestyle, especially the drugs and free love. And I don’t like what some of them are saying about our government. However, if I know my American history, tens of thousands of Americans in uniform gave their lives in war after war just so those kids would have the freedom to do exactly what they are doing. That’s what this country is all about and I am not going to let you throw them out of our town just because you don’t like their dress or their hair or the way they live or what they believe. This is America and they are going to have their festival. ”
— addressing a Bethel town board prior to the festival
and the permit was approved?
Some say the historic site and museum would be in Wallkill but they would have been better prepared-fences,water,camping,roads (no 17b easier to get in and OUT)etc. since they had 2months instead of 3 weeks. Also the weather! We all know that there is a big difference between Bethel and Wallkill .
Thanks (as always) Charlie! Interesting to wonder whether….I don’t know what the area surrounding the Wallkill site was like in 1969, but my sense is that it wasn’t nearly as rural as the Bethel site. Yasgur’s farm fit the Woodstock Venture’s idea for the festival better than the Wallkill site.
Anyone know what the Wallkill site is like today?
It basically sits in the north east corner of the Rt 17/I 84 intersection. Now called “Scotchtown.” Howard Mills had intended to develop it and he did. Mostly residential. It even has a Woodstock Lane!
Thank you for the reply! Very kind.
Shortly before Howard Mills passed away, he gave me a tour by car (ask me about THAT offline), and the site was actually a natural bowl much like the actual Festival site. It’s a suburban neighborhood niw, but even in 1969 it was in an area that was anything but rural— near Moddletown and “The Quickway” as Hwy 17 was/is known. Howard received death threats and had to be protected by the head of the State Police.
The neighborhood today is ringed in by warehouses, office parks, and suburban sprawl. Choosing Max’s property was the best thing that could have happened.
Keep up the great work, Jim (and Charlie)!
Thanks Wade and look forward to the “rest of the story.”
It always amazed me that the thruway was closed. Bethel isn’t that close to the thruway.
It wasn’t closed for exactly the reason you are saying. Too far away. Arlo Guthrie made that statement during his set and his set was Friday evening. I drove up on Friday evening and used the Thruway. He and others (think of the kids game “telephone”) probably heard that the main road (17B) was closed and after several humorous re-tellings morphed into the “Thruway is closed, man!”
Keep up the great work Jim! I know of the history of it all in terms of locations and all that …….. but it sounds way better and easier to understand the way you have it written!
Thanks (again) Paul…to tell the truth, I’ve only learned these things since volunteering at BW and reading a lot about the circumstances.
“The oft told but inaccurate story,” is just your take, of course, not necessarily the fact of the matter. This is Lang’s account (and he ought to know): “Word got out in Woodstock that I was thinking of having a festival in the area. Soon I was hearing from the town supervisor, Bill Ward, and an official from the county health department, who made it clear they did not want a large outdoor event to occur in the town of Woodstock.”
My great grandfather, frank elinoff, wasone of the founders of bethel. I was re ruited as a physician during the concert. Served as founding physician of bethel medical center in 1970 with funds donated by wood stock
Lol mo bugproducers
Given the nick name woodstock doc. Great experience.