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5Oth Anniversary 1969

2 O1 9

A collectors’ edition published by the Sullivan County Democrat


Join us this summer on the Sullivan Catskills Dove Art Trail.

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The greatest festival of all a time happened right here, in our backyard. Half-a-million people journeyed from all across America to Bethel, thel NY, g gathering on a single weekend 50 years ago to be part of something historic.

SITE OF THE 1969 WOODSTOCK FE ST IVAL AL

As the stewards of the original o site of the 1969 Woodstock festival, Bethel Woods C Center for the Arts is a testament to the ability of people to coexist in the spirit of love that still echoes today through peace p , music & freedom of expressiion. Here, the spirit of the 196 60s is not just a memory. It is the inspiration for all that Bethel Woods does — from thought provoking exhibits, to livve music, from community festivals to creative programs for all ages.

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Support our efforts to preserve and a interpret the National Register Hisstoric Site of the 1969 Woodstock festival by purchasing a commemorative paver. A perfect way to memorialize a lo oved one or celebrate a special event, each paver will be incorporated into th he pathway at Bethel Woods and rema ain as a lasting symbol of your support.

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WHEN IT RAINED IT POURED: The summer of 1969 in Sullivan County BY JOHN CONWAY SULLIVAN COUNTY HISTORIAN

he legacy of the Woodstock Music Festival in August of 1969 has long overshadowed the events of the summer leading up to it, but for many, the string of storms and the subsequent flooding that summer are hard to forget. A string of rainy days in July left Sullivan County a federal disaster area just as it was playing host to several hundred thousand concert goers visiting for three days of peace and music. That summer was an unusually wet one in many areas of the United States, and locally the rainfall for July was already more than two inches above average when a thirteen day stretch began during which it rained virtually every day. By July 29, it was apparent that something was about to give.

T

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“Heavy rains, fierce winds and floods beset portions of the Northeast yesterday, and Weather Bureau forecasters held out little hope for a swift end to the poor weather,” the New York Times reported in that day’s edition. “Sullivan County was declared a disaster area by Sheriff Louis Ratner in the Catskills town of Liberty, N.Y., where three feet of water lapped through Main Street at midnight. “‘We have bridges and roads out and water lines and sewer mains are gone,’ the Sheriff said. ‘Streams and creeks are six feet over their normal levels.’" A two-car accident in Liberty, which resulted in one death and three injuries, was blamed on the storm. Many of the county’s most heavily traveled roadways were shut down due to the flooding. “In Parksville, Civil Defense crews evacuated 75 children from a sum-

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Photo Courtesy of Bethel Woods Thousands made their way to Bethel, NY for what would become one of the most iconic events in history. But before the festival, a string of rainy days left Sullivan County a federal disaster area.

mer camp and took them to a resort hotel on high ground. Fifteen other vacationers were led to safety from a bungalow colony in the same area,” the Times reported. “Sullivan County’s Civil Defense director, Mrs. Emily Roche, said the heavy rains had washed out 15 bridges and closed many roads. The county’s major roads were closed to all but emergency vehicles.” As hard hit as Liberty and Parksville were, it was the tiny hamlet of Pond Eddy on the Delaware River that might have

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seen the heaviest rainfall. The Times reported that an incredible eight inches of rain was recorded there between the hours of five and ten p.m. on July 28. “This downpour, coming so soon after the heavy cloudbursts of the last few days, turned the normally shallow Mongaup River into a raging torrent. Houses bordering the waterway were endangered and their occupants were fleeing.” By then, Woodstock Ventures had begun braving the foul weather to work on the festival site in Bethel continued on page 9

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W 5Oth

DST CK Anniversary

‘A Look Back at an Event that Changed History!’ Publisher: Co- Editors: Editorial Assistants:

Published by

Catskill-Delaware Publications, Inc. Publishers of the

(845) 887-5200 Callicoon, NY 12723 July 19, 2019 • Vol. CXXIX, No. 11

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continued from page 5

after the Wallkill Town Board denied permits for the concert there, and local newspapers were reporting that as many as 150,000 festival goers might attend the three day event. The Liberty Register, for example, reported in its July 24 edition that festival promoters were saying that “advance ticket sales have reached the 50,000 mark, but that no more than 50,000 will be on hand at any one time.” On August 1, the Small Business Administration in Washington D.C. declared Sullivan County a disaster area, allowing business proprietors, homeowners, and charitable institutions that had suffered flood damage to apply for reconstruction loans at three percent interest.The S.B.A. also opened a temporary office in the county to assist in the process. Meanwhile, festival preparations

continued at a furious pace despite what had by then become intermittently bad weather. Some locals continued to fight the festival, and as late as August 12, Liberty attorney Richard Gross was representing Woodstock Ventures in court, successfully arguing against two separate attempts to gain injunctions against the concert. As reports of flood damage continued to pour in, the Sullivan County Board of Supervisors appealed to Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller to apply to the federal government for further assistance in funding over $1.4 million in repairs to public properties. Despite Rockefeller’s influence as a powerful Republican governor, the Nixon administration did not move quickly to designate the county as a region eligible for funding. It wasn’t until August 26 that the announcecontinued on page 13

Photo Courtesy of Bethel Woods While many think of the Woodstock Music Festival when they reflect on memories of 1969, perhaps an equally bigger story was the weather leading up to the event. J U LY 2 0 1 9

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continued from page 9

ment came from San Clemente, California that a vacationing Nixon had made the declaration. “President Nixon declared areas in Sullivan County, in New York State, a major disaster area today, allocating an initial $250,000 to help repair damage to property, clear debris, and give other aid,” the Times reported the next day.The county was plagued by heavy rainfall and floods that began July 27.” Of course, by the time of the disaster declaration, Sullivan County had even bigger problems, as more heavy rains had drenched the world’s largest concert, and those at-

tending had left behind a string of abandoned vehicles, tons of trash and considerable property damage. And even as the state Attorney General’s office was initiating an investigation of the concert due to hundreds of complaints from those who had purchased tickets but couldn’t get close enough to see the show, organizer Michael Lang of Woodstock Ventures was announcing that an even larger music festival was being planned for the following year at the same Yasgur farm site, and a group of Bethel residents had indicated they intended to take legal action against the Town Board for approving the event in the first place.

Photo Courtesy of Bethel Woods Festivalgoers enjoy some time in the water, likely washing off mud. J U LY 2 0 1 9

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‘Mister Woodstock’ talks

music, crowds and life after

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

In 2017, Duke Devlin squired iconic folksinger Joan Baez around the old Woodstock site, both posing on the monument that celebrates the site where hundreds of thousands of young people gathered for music in 1969.

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BY KATHY DALEY uke Devlin remembers well the stunning rendition of the labor union song “Joe Hill” by Joan Baez and electric performances by Richie Havens in his African shirt belting out “Freedom” and Joe Cocker singing a gravellyvoiced “With a Little Help From My Friends.” But it was the appearance of a local individual who took to the stage that August weekend in 1969 that Devlin recalls most fondly. “Someone handed Max Yasgur a microphone,” said Devlin.“He stood there on that stage just like he was talking to the Lions Club and said ‘I’m Max Yasgur, and I’m a farmer.’ The crowd went nuts.” Sitting cheek to jowl on the hillside, the young people whistled, got to their feet, and applauded. “You kids have proven something to the world,” declared Yasgur, the prosperous dairy farmer of Russian-Jewish heritage upon whose hills the crowd perched.“This is the largest group of people ever assembled in one place... You have proven that a half million kids can get together and have three days of fun and music and have nothing but fun and music. And God bless you for it.” At the time, Devlin, who grew up in Newark, N.J. would have no inkling he’d wind up in Sullivan County for the next 50 years,“the hippie who never left.” “It was (only) a weekend, man!” he says, part in reminder and part in amazement. Or that he would serve, first, as unofficial spokesperson for the Woodstock Festival site and later as salaried site interpreter when Alan Gerry built Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, with its 50s and 60s museum and a 15,000 seat performance space. The ‘69 Festival drew the Who's Who of the music culture at the time, Devlin recalled.They performed before a throng that had gotten rained on and dealt with overwhelmed “bathroom facilities.” Food ran out until locals, getting news of the situation on TV and radio, began turning up with everything from hardboiled eggs and peanut butter sandwiches to heroes. “The phenomenon was that when you got that crowd together, everything worked,” Devlin said. “There was a sense of community. I am you and you are me and we are whole. “The peace thing was contagious,” he continued.“Whether you were there for the music, the nudity, the drugs, you got caught up in the

D

peace thing.” At the time,“give peace a chance” was the theme because young Americans were getting drafted and heading off to die in Vietnam, he said. After the weekend was over, Devlin recalls helping clear debris from the fields and thinking “I can’t wait for them to do this next year.” Of course, it didn’t happen, but that’s okay. Duke stayed. He worked 27 years for Sullivan County BOCES, serving as evening supervisor for the maintenance department. He married, and he and wife Pat Devlin ran Duke’s Farm Market (now Vita's Market) on Route 52 in Jeffersonville for years. “I had a good life here, green air I never had breathed before,” he said with a smile, noting it was a big change from his childhood in a New Jersey tenement house. And then, his job with Bethel Woods afforded him up-close contact with the very up-and-coming superstars he had watched at the '69 festival. Down through the years, he escorted Joan Baez, David Crosby of Crosby, Stills and Nash, and John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater. Carlos Santana, whose career was launched by the Woodstock Festival, later mused to Devlin, “Duke, this is Ground Zero for peace.” - Carlos Santana “Everyone was thrilled, excited, wanting to find out that this is where the people sat, this is where the stage was,” Devlin said. “Here were the helicopter landings – the Festival had the third largest helicopter fleet at two heliports, one behind the stage and another where the Harvest Festival is held now.” Performers were housed at the Holiday Inn in Liberty, which is now Day’s Inn and, because the roads were impassable, were helicoptered to the site. Anyone injured or sick was helicoptered to what is now Catskill Regional Medical Center. In a different world where violence is rampant and illegal drugs more dangerous than a half century ago, could there ever be another Woodstock? Devlin is not pessimistic about the possibility. No one could have predicted Woodstock, he said. And he has faith in today's young people. “The winds of change will flow with the youth,” he said.

“Duke, this is Ground Zero for peace.”

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Alan Gerry keeps ‘Woodstock’ spirit alive

DEMOCRAT FILE PHOTOS BY FRED STABBERT III

Alan Gerry, above center, greets a guest during the 1998 A Day in the Garden Festival at the original site of Woodstock. Nearly 75,000 people attended the three-day event which featured dozens of artists, including many from the original ‘69 event.

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Alan Gerry, right, was very hands on during A Day in the Garden in 1998, shown here talking about the positioning of the stage at the original Woodstock site. He would later build Bethel Woods Center for the Arts overlooking the historic venue. J U LY 2 0 1 9


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‘Thank God it was peaceful’ M BY JOSEPH ABRAHAM

any know Jack Danchak for his dedication to sportsmen and women across the county as President of the Sportsmen’s Federation of Sullivan County. But for several years he owned a gas station and diner, eventually turned into a sports shop, at the four corners in Fosterdale. During Woodstock, it was specifically a diner and gas station that stayed awfully busy. “All we had left were eggs and bread,” says Danchak. He noted that they ran out of toilet paper, but one of the hippies ran across

the street and bought a case to bring back and declared that everyone could use it. Also, Danchak kept a hose outside so people could wash off all the mud before coming in to eat. “I was the closest gas station to the site that still had gas,” continued Danchak.“And fortunately I could get replenished.” Tankers avoided the festival by using Route 97 to Jack and Kay Danchak

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them they could use a helicopter if they needed. But thankfully baby Bill decided to delay his grand entrance into the world until after the festival was over. On his overall take on Woodstock, Danchak concluded,“Thank God it was peaceful, because if we had a fire or something, I’m unsure we’d have anyone able to get there.”

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You’ve been to the site of the historic music festival—now experience the unique community that inspired it. Walk in the footsteps of Bob Dylan and The Band, hike the trails of the illustrious Byrdcliffe Art Colony, explore the quirky shops and innovative cafes on Mill Hill Road, and lose yourself in the vibrant nightlife that gave birth to a counterculture.

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The sights and sounds of the 1969 Woodstock Festival are alive and well at the Museum at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, where you can learn how one festival changed the world.

A trip down memory lane STORY AND PHOTOS BY PATRICIO ROBAYO

T

he museum at Bethel Woods not only takes you back to that historic summer festival that happened right here in Bethel, but it also tells the story of how Woodstock transformed not only Sullivan County but also the world. Over 400,000 people flocked to Max Yasgurâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s dairy farm near White Lake after festival planners were turned down at Saugerties and Wallkill. State Route 17B and the surrounding roads near the dairy farm were a parking lot during the weekend, with many going on foot after abandoning their cars. Traffic was so bad on 17B, that they had to helicopter in performing artists as no cars could get through. When entering the museum now, you are taken on a journey through the 60s and what led up to the historic festival. You hear the sights and sounds of the era and learn how it influenced the generation to come. The main exhibit offers 21 short films and several interactive exhibits that will guide you through the rabbit hole. The museum opened its doors to the public in June 2008 and has since been certified as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Designed (LEED) building Richie Havens's clothing and instruments from the festival are on display. Havens was the first performer of the festival and played for three hours. 34 WO O D S TO C K 5 0 T H

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and is set back on top of the hill overlooking the original site. Housed in the building is not only the main exhibit gallery but also a lower level special exhibit space where currently,“We are Golden” is being exhibited. “We are Golden” reflects on the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock Festival and also looks towards the future—with aspirations for a peaceful future. It also brings together artifacts, some not seen since the event, on display along with photographs and stories of the era. Using artifacts—found and donated—the museum weaves you through the story of Woodstock and how it ended up here in Sullivan County. Just outside the museum doors is the Bethel Woods Event Gallery where intimate concerts and events are held. Don’t forget to check out the museum shop and cafe, which is named after Max Yasgur himself:Yasgur’s Farm Cafe. The museum’s collection of artifacts from the Woodstock Festival are forever growing with reference materials, used staged equipment and stories from the event “Return to the Gar-

den.” “The Museum embodies the key ideas of the era we interpret—peace, respect, cooperation, creativity, engagement, and a connection to the planet we live on and all the people who inhabit it,” according to Bethel Woods. Moreover, the museum offers programs for children and adults making lessons and ideals of the 60s relevant and accessible today, according to the museum. While preserving the history of the era, the museum also wants to engage the public to future expansion on the conversation that started from the 60s. “Encourage social responsibility among our visitors and supporters and to advocate for issues that make Sullivan County, and the world at large, a better place,” said Bethel Woods.“To borrow from 1960s ideology, everyone has the power to change the world.”

A Museum that showcases Woodstock history

Top: Take a seat and go on a groovy trip as you enter the Aquarian Exposition. Left: When you enter the museum, you are taken down the path of history where you see how the events of the '60s shaped the times and the festival. J U LY 2 0 1 9

WO O D S TO C K 5 0 T H 35


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The rolling hills of the original site of Woodstock were once a part of Yasgur’s Farm in Bethel, NY.

The family that made it happen BY ISABEL BRAVERMAN

F

or most people, the hills of Yasgur’s Farm were the site of the 1969 Woodstock Festival. But for Martin (Marty) Miller, they were where he went sledding in the winter. Miller has family ties to the iconic music festival—Max Yasgur was his uncle. The story of how Woodstock came to be is known to many, but Marty actually played a role in bringing it to the farm in Bethel. Miller remembers being at the table for the first conversation when the family discussed the possibility of having the Woodstock Festival on the farm.At the time he was 20 years old and home for summer break from Cornell University in Ithaca. “When this whole thing happened initially, both families were involved, which is to say my aunt and uncle and my mom and dad,” Miller recalled.“And the initial discussions about whether or not this might happen at the farm were had between four adults, way back when.” That initial conversation took place some J U LY 2 0 1 9

time in May at the Miller’s home in Monticello. Marty’s father, Daniel, was Max’s brother-in-law. The families often got together for dinner at local restaurants, but that night they stayed in and Marty’s mother cooked dinner. That same day a photo ran on the front page of the Times Herald Record that the Woodstock Festival was going to take place in the Town of Wallkill in Orange County. Marty recalls thinking that it wouldn’t take place there, that the town wouldn’t allow it.And as history shows, that’s exactly what happened. Around the dinner table Marty joined in the conversation.“The observation was made that they [the festival organizers] would look to go to an adjoining county, and they had already been denied in Ulster.The observation I made was that they would eventually come to us and look to rent the farm,” Marty said. And as history shows, that’s exactly what happened. Marty’s premonition galvanized Max to think

continued on page 40 WO O D S TO C K 5 0 T H 39


continued from page 39 about the probabilities of renting the farm to the festival organizers. It made sense—the family was among the larger landowners in the county at the time, and the property had a natural amphitheater where the concert would be held (and was the aforementioned hill that Marty went sledding on). It was also a very wet summer, and they felt that the fields could not be used for crops anyway.And as many recall, the Woodstock Festival itself was very muddy. From those initial conversations in May, it led to the big event taking place on the historic weekend of August 15 to 18, 1969. Marty says he thinks he attended all three days of the festival. He may not exactly remember the music, but many stories come to his mind. One story was that it was a very rainy day and he saw a Town of Thompson Justice Martin Miller stands outside girl walking along Route 17B getting the town hall in Monticello. His father’s sister married soaked from the rain and shivering. He Max Yasgur, and Marty fondly recalls his memories of gave her his jacket, a blue Cornell wind- Uncle Max from the iconic Woodstock Festival. breaker, and kept on walking. mester. But she ran after him and wondered — ‘how These stories are what Marty remembers will I get it back to you?’ most about Woodstock. He also remembers that “Don’t worry about it,” he said. But she inafter the festival ended people stuck around to sisted on returning it. So he said, after the festival just mail it to Yasgur Farms in Bethel, NY. She help clean up, picking up and putting away trash. was wary that it wouldn’t reach him but agreed “They did their very best to make the place as to it. Sure enough, a couple weeks after the fesorderly as they could, given the mud,” Marty tival, his jacket arrived in the mail from Key said. “It wasn’t three days of peace and music— West, FL. it was probably a week and a half of it, by the Another story is that he helped his friends from college get into the festival.As many know, time people came and by the time they left. It really was a peaceful decent collection of indithe roads were completely backed up and his viduals.” friends were staying at his house in Monticello After the music stopped, the crowds of peowith no way to get anywhere near the festival. ple left, and the muddy fields dried back out, Marty told them to get in their car and just Marty returned to Cornell and continued his follow him and they’ll get in.They drove to Narrowsburg and from there went to the begin- lifetime career of practicing law. He has had a law office in Monticello for decades and has ning of Route 52.The road was closed off by been the Town of Thompson Justice since 1996. police cars, but Marty went up to them and In addition he’s served on many boards and has showed him his pass. given back to the community in myriad ways. The cop said he would move his car but had And he still has his original ticket and staff to do it in a very quick fashion so no other cars pass. The legacy of Woodstock lives on. on the road would try and rush through. Marty “It was a once-in-a-lifetime, never to be recregot back into his car and, knowing his friends ated event,” he said.“It was a product unique of would follow him, waited for the cop to move his car and then drove in with his friends tailing its time. People were there for the music. But it wasn’t just the music—it was the participation, him just in the nick of time. Upon reaching the it was truly the experience of being there. festival, his friends disappeared into the crowds That’s what it means to me.” and he didn’t see them again until the fall se40 WO O D S TO C K 5 0 T H

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70 years of peace, love and good spirits

STORY AND PHOTOS BY MATT SHORTALL

T

wenty years before half a million people descended on Max Yasgur’s 600acre dairy farm in Bethel for the Woodstock Music Festival, the Hector family was already a staple of the community with their Bar and Inn less than two miles away. “Even though Woodstock is 50, we’re turning 70,” owner Bonnie Lagoda said with a laugh. In fact, it’s the only business that was there in 1969 and is still running under the same name. Bonnie’s grandfather and grandmother, Howard and Elsie Hector, first opened the place in 1949. Back then they lived in what is now the dining room and ran the bar on the other side of the house. Bonnie grew up right next door. When her father, Jerry Hector, took over the J U LY 2 0 1 9

Bonnie Lagoda, standing next to the peace dove painted by local artist Kim Simons, represents the third generation of the family that has owned and operated Hector’s Inn in Bethel since 1949.

business they would throw annual clam bakes, steak dinners and Oktoberfest celebrations. “The Bethel Lions Club used to meet here twice a month, and we used to do a lot of cooking for the hunting clubs,” Bonnie said. When August of 1969 rolled around, Jerry had a hunch that things were going to be big. He bought a tractor trailer load of beer and very quickly sold out. Bonnie, who was a teenager at the time, remembers selling sodas off the front porch with her sisters. “It was amazing,” she said.“You went to bed at night and when you woke up in the morning it was a great big parking lot around here.The only thing moving were the people walking. We got very little sleep for the next three days.” Located right off Route 17B, Hector’s was perfectly situated to take advantage of the large crowds on their way to the concert and stuck in gridlock traffic. “We just happened to be in the right spot when Woodstock came along,” Bonnie said.“[My father] always treated people right, no matter who you were. People picked up on that, and so they just keep coming back.”

continued on page 46 WO O D S TO C K 5 0 T H 45


Located on Dr. Duggan Road just off Route 17B, Hector’s Inn attracts a loyal following of customers, some who have been coming back since 1969.

continued from page 45 Bonnie believes the enduring legacy of Hector’s Inn is a testament to her father, who passed away in 2012. Jerry’s picture still hangs behind the bar and his larger-than-life personality remains fresh in the minds of those who knew him. “He loved people. He’d do anything for anybody and they’d do anything for him.” Jerry had a knack for giving regular patrons unique nicknames. Midnight, Grizzly, Huggler, White Tornado and Thing of Beauty were just a few. Bonnie says some of them still stop by and they still go by those old monikers. Bonnie said she keeps the business going because of that strong connection after three generations of Hectors. “I grew up with it and am emotionally attached to it, that’s why I’m here,” said Bonnie, who works a second full-time job in addition to

46 WO O D S TO C K 5 0 T H

Hector’s.“Otherwise I’d have to be crazy at my age,” she laughed. Bonnie still keeps her family’s tradition of organizing community events alive, like the Easter and Christmas parties she puts on for the kids every year. At 7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 17, Big Sky Productions presents “Shorts and Sweets Summer Shenanigans,” an adults only benefit to raise money for the Alzheimer's Association. On July 27, starting at noon, Hector’s Inn will hold its 5th Annual Car Show.Admission is free and attendees will get a chance to meet Dove Artist Kim Simons. Bonnie’s not sure what to expect with the anniversary quickly approaching next month, but she knows they’ll be there to offer the same familiar friendship as 50 years ago. “Ready or not, here they come,” she said. For more information, contact Hector’s Inn after 12:30 at (845) 583-9740.

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The Stabbert sisters (l. to r.) Laurie, Billie and Kathy, would attend the Woodstock Festival a year and a month after they had another historical visit – to Gettysburg.

Woodstock Remembered Her father, Fred Stabbert Jr., was publisher of the Sullivan County Democrat and Kathy Stabbert was celebrating her 17th birthday on August 16, 1969. Here is her story on how she ended up going to Woodstock, not once, but twice, and the experiences she had there. BY KATHY STABBERT WERNER

W

hen Max Yasgur said ‘yes’ to Michael Lang back in 1969, the world shifted just a bit on its axis. Max, the unpretentious dairy farmer from Bethel, struck a deal with Michael, a hippie entrepreneur from the wilds of Woodstock, agreeing to let him have this concert on acres of his farmland in the town of Bethel. It seemed simple enough; Michael had agreements with a bunch of bands that the kids liked and he’d set up a stage at the bottom of an alJ U LY 2 0 1 9

falfa field that sloped down, making a natural amphitheater. Three Days of Peace and Music. Done. Easy. What neither of them counted on was that somehow, in an age with no social media, word of this concert would get out to hundreds of thousands of kids who listened to FM radio and played the records of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and The Who in their basements and bedrooms, who would decide that they just had to be there. Young men, who had waited with bated breath to find out their draft lottery number and see if they were headed off to Vietnam, were ready to sing “I-Feel-Like-I’m Fixin’-to-Die Rag” along with Country Joe McDonald and the Fish. Young women were ready to hear Janis Joplin wail and hear the intricate melodies of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Before it was over, nearly half a million of

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continued from page 51 them would show up. For a young woman just about to turn 17 living in Callicoon, the whole thing was surreal. Adding to this sense of unreality, the ladies’ hospital auxiliary that Mom belonged to decided that they could raise some money by checking luggage at the event. I’m not sure how this plan came into being and can only imagine the discussion that preceded it. “Well, these young folks will be coming from all over, and they are planning to stay for three days, so they will need a place to store their belongings while they go over to the field to listen to the music.” Clearly these women, however well-intentioned, were mildly delusional. Sounded weird to us, but if it got us over to the festival for free, we were all for it. So early Friday morning, my sisters Laurie, Billie and I, along with a few friends, drove over to the field designated for “luggage” and waited. And waited. We had a few sawhorses, but nary a customer. By late afternoon we had abandoned our posts and wandered over to the field. I felt like Dorothy Gale landing in Oz. What was this? Where was I? There were longhairs everywhere, and the smell of marijuana was in the air. It was a whole new world! We wandered through the crowd, making our way down near the stage. By 5 o’clock, Richie Havens had taken the stage and was singing “Motherless Child.” Richie finished his set and Swami Satchidananda came onstage to bless the festival. Then things got truly bizarre. Someone who looked suspiciously like my kid brother Fred, age 8, came running down the hill to tell us that Dad was here to take us home. Wait, what? Sure enough, Mom and Dad (who was still sporting a crew cut) had driven over from Callicoon to see what was happening in Bethel. Our Ford Estate Station Wagon was pulled over on Hurd Road. So, in a twist so unbelievable it just has to be true, we walked up the hill to the car and rode home to Callicoon. How had that little bugger found us? Good grief! Once home, we lost no time in finding our way back to the concert. Hey, man, something this groovy was meant to be experienced. And, to their credit, Mom and Dad ok’d our

plan. Sister Billie and I were taken over by family friend Harold Bjorklund and his sons, Bob and Richard. Harold knew all the back roads and soon we found ourselves with a tent pitched right behind the stone wall on West Shore Road.The helicopters were landing in the same field. Harold got out the Coleman stove to make us some dinner, and for dessert, Mom had sent along my birthday cake. Sweet 17 and all that. As the evening wore on, Billie, Richard, Bob, and I headed over to the concert for some music.We heard Canned Heat, Mountain, and the Grateful Dead, but my clearest memory is of Creedence Clearwater Revival playing the first notes of “Born in the Bayou.” The crowd was screaming.After their set, it was about 1 a.m., and Billie decided we needed to return to the tent. Richard stayed up all night, watching Janis Joplin, Sly and the Family Stone, The Who, and Jefferson Airplane, and hearing Grace Slick sing in the sunrise. Meanwhile, across Sullivan County, the Woodstock Festival was working its magic. My grandfather Percy Kohler let a group of kids on motorcycles take shelter from a rainstorm under a shed in his Jeffersonville lumberyard, and went uptown to get them some coffee and donuts. The locals saw the longhairs and realized that they were just kids looking to have a good time. Everyone pulled together and got along.The vibe was transcendent. Woodstock marked a huge cultural shift in this country. My generation had come together in unexpectedly enormous numbers at a gathering on a farm in Sullivan County and shown the world that a bunch of kids could come together in peace. As Max Yasgur told the crowd,“A half a million young people can get together and have three days of fun and music, and have nothing but fun and music, and I God bless you for it!” Back in 1969, with all the enthusiasm of youth, I wrote,“Thank you, Max Yasgur.The world has long needed a Woodstock Festival.” I remain delighted that I got to experience it.

The locals saw the longhairs and realized they were just kids looking to have a good time.

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Peace, people. J U LY 2 0 1 9


Kathy and John attended A Day in the Garden in 1998, a concert reunion on the original Woodstock site in Bethel. Kathy and her sisters will be back at Bethel this August for the 50th Anniversary concerts.

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71933

Democrat File photo by Fred Stabbert III

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How Harold got backstage access

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ounty Sealer of Weights and Measures, Harold Bjorklund, volunteered for car service on the second day of the Woodstock Festival. His son, Richard, along with friends Kathy and Billie Stabbert, had purchased tickets but were unable to arrange transportation during the first chaotic day. Harold had worked until a few months before for the Dairy Herd Improvement Co-operative (DHIC, an open secret that it was wife, Pearl, who did the milk testing) and spent a few

days every month collecting samples on the Yasgur farm. His evaluation of the situation was that "these hippies don’t know where the backroads are." As soon as the car turned on to his planned backroad route it became apparent that there were hippies all over the place. And road blocks. But since these were manned by Yasgur employees they just greeted him and waved us through. Same procedure upon arrival at the stage where he was given permission to drive into

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the backstage area. With the tent pitched and food unloaded, he tried to sound spontaneous when he said that since it would be difficult for him to drive home through the crowd and then return to pick us up that he might as well stay. I’m sure it was his plan all along, with the biggest event to ever hit the county underway, he wasn't content to experience it from the front porch of the last house on 17B. It is somewhat ironic that it was his employment with the DHIC that provided choice living accommodations at the festival considering that his boss, Jesse Brown, was depicted as a vocal critic of Max Yasgur renting out his farm in the movie Taking Woodstock (2009). Democrat File photo by Fred Stabbert III

Harold Bjorklund taking it easy during the Callicoon Street Fair in 1993.

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Woodstock 50th Anniversary Journal  

It was an event like no other! This August is the 50th anniversary of the iconic Woodstock Festival. Take a trip down memory lane in our com...

Woodstock 50th Anniversary Journal  

It was an event like no other! This August is the 50th anniversary of the iconic Woodstock Festival. Take a trip down memory lane in our com...

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