The 47 Year Anniversary
In 1969, the Woodstock Music & Art Festival ran from August 15 – 18. It was originally scheduled to end on the 17th, but the hordes of hippies had different ideas. In the 47 years since, the festival has been considered one of the most important moments in musical history. It’s not likely that you’ll find a musical historian who doesn’t look to this moment as a significant turning point. And future attempts to recapture the feeling and importance of the festival tended to be failures.
But for all of that positivity, how often do people think of the logistics behind woodstock?
An estimated 400,000 people attended the Three Days of Peace & Music. So many people, and with so much enthusiasm, that those three days were extended out to four. Wherever that many people group together for that long period of time, certain problems will arise.
Human beings need food, water, and sanitary places to use the bathroom. And when there are hundreds of thousands of people in one small space, those things can be hard to come by.
Organizers of the festival had little to no problem getting performers together. Some of the biggest musical names of the time were in attendance. Jimi Hendrix himself performed the best rendition of the Star Spangled Banner ever heard. But when it came to feeding their crowds, the organizers left something to be desired.
Initially, 186,000 tickets were sold for the event. The organizers were expecting that a few extras would find their way onto Max Yasgur’s farm, but even with that, they only expected a total of 200,000 people.
They were wrong by half, and when 400,000 people showed up, it didn’t take long for their food stores to run dangerously low.
No major food vendors wanted to tackle the crowds, so the organizers hired an inexperienced company to handle their feeding needs.
It is no surprise at all that this was a really bad idea. In no time at all, the company was overwhelmed by trying to meet the needs of so many hungry people. As their food stock started dwindling, the vendors began price gouging.
In reaction to that, the group of people who had come together in peace and love showcased the opposite by burning down the food vendor stands.
As news of the Woodstock struggles spread throughout the country, people banded together with a plan. The U.S. Army was to take a helicopter into the heart of the festival and deliver food and supplies to the hippies.
All told, the Army brought over 10,000 sandwiches, water, fruit, canned goods, blankets, and medical supplies to the ravenous crowd.
The festival didn’t claim to be any kind of protest against militarization, but it has to be acknowledged that the event took place during the height of the Vietnam War. So when 400,000 people got together in celebration of peace and love in 1969, it’s a safe bet that they were aligned against the U.S. Military. And yet, when those people found themselves in a bit of bind, it was that same military that came to their rescue.