50 Facts about Woodstock
Besides being the biggest event in music history, Woodstock is also the source of quite a few great stories and folk tales that have been passed down through generations since 1969. While there are a few rumors we can’t verify, Woodstock does have its fair share of fun facts. Here are 50 of our favorites:
- Attendance estimates vary, but it’s believed at least 400,000 music lovers attended Woodstock.
- Woodstock didn’t actually happen in Woodstock, but on a farm in Bethel, New York, about an hour outside of the town of Woodstock.
- For nearly three hours, the festival’s first performer, Richie Havens, sang several covers of songs by The Beatles after quickly running through his own songs because the intended first act, Sweetwater, was stuck in traffic.
- The festival was almost cancelled halfway through the event due to financial reasons since festival organizers grossly underestimated the cost of providing food and water for so many guests.
- Festival organizers hired helicopters to fly in food and water to reach the hundreds of thousands of attendees.
- Many performers demanded to be paid in cash before going on stage which contributed to the lack of financial resources available.
- Jimi Hendrix performed at 9am on a Monday after the festival was intended to end because his contract included a clause that no performer could play after him.
- Due to mass confusion and chaos surrounding the number of people, the original setlist was never followed.
- Many performers made appearances hours or days after they were expected to.
- Three people died during the festival. Two people died from drug overdoses and one from being run over by the driver of a tractor who did not notice the man sleeping under a sleeping bag.
- Some people didn’t have to pay to attend. While tickets were originally on sale for $6 a day, it quickly became apparent there would be no way to know who paid and who had not with hundreds of thousands of attendees, so many were able to attend for free.
- More than 5,000 medical incidents were reported to officials, 800 of which were drug-related.
- Despite rumors of multiple births occurring at Woodstock, no evidence can support the claim that any children were born during the festival.
- Woodstock cost an estimated $3 million to fund, but turned only a $1.8 million profit.
- It took festival organizers years to pay off debts incurred during the festival.
- Woodstock wasn’t meant to be a music festival at all, but a recording studio. Organizers originally sought to find a location for a recording studio, but this idea morphed into creating the music festival of the century.
- Woodstock was known as a destination for artists and music lovers before the famous festival of 1969.
- According to those in the know, Bob Dylan, who lived near the town of Woodstock, claimed to be unable to attend due to a sick child but actually refused to perform at the festival because he didn’t like hippies. Their theory could have some truth, since he later claimed he had to move following the festival because his house was constantly surrounded by tourists, drug addicts, and star-crazed fans.
- Joni Mitchell never actually attended or performed at Woodstock. Her famous hit “Woodstock” was based on the account of her boyfriend Graham Nash of the band Crosby Stills and Nash.
- Rumor has it Jethro Tull refused to perform due to his fear of “naked ladies.”
- Iron Butterfly was invited to perform, but they were nixed from the lineup when the personal helicopter they requested for use throughout the duration of the festival never arrived at the airport to pick them up.
- John Lennon and The Beatles refused to perform at Woodstock when their request to have Yoko Ono perform alongside them was turned down.
- Farmer Max Yasgur was paid a respectable sum for the use of his 600-acre dairy farm to host the festival. Some say the amount was $50,000, while others claim Yasgur was paid a cool $75,000 for his cooperation.
- Yasgur’s speech welcoming attendees is said to have received a standing ovation.
- Canadian band Lighthouse backed out of the festival due to concerns over safety and…ahem…toiletry space.
- The festival was repeatedly stopped throughout the weekend due to rain and the risk of electrocution.
- Some attendees claim they waited in line for hours to use restroom facilities. Something tells us some of them couldn’t hold it that long.
- Rumor has it jugs of homemade wine were passed around freely.
- Many people who attended the festival claim not to have realized just how many people were present. Many quotes from in-person interviews during the festival which can still be found online estimate tens of thousands, not hundreds of thousands.
- Tens of thousands of vehicles of guests were parked as far as 20 miles away from the site of the festival.
- In 2007, Max Yasgur’s 600-acre dairy farm was listed for sale at the low, low price of $8 million.
- Performer Melanie Safka was a relatively unknown 19-year-old folk singer who was never given an artist VIP pass and had to sing to security guards in order to convince them she was scheduled to perform on stage.
- Chants of “No rain! No rain! No rain!” continued for hours while Joan Baez performed in the middle of a thunderstorm.
- Singer Alvin Lee of the band Ten Years After chose to sing in the rain after reportedly ignoring warnings he could become electrocuted. It’s rumored he said “If I get electrocuted at Woodstock, we’ll sell a lot of records.”
- The very last song of the festival was “The Star Spangled Banner,” performed by Jimi Hendrix.
- While Woodstock was taking place, so was the Vietnam War. Dozens of attendees carried posters and wore clothing denouncing the war and calling for peace.
- The famous nine-mile traffic jam really did occur, and it really was as bad as it sounds, according to witnesses.
- A man wearing a Smokey-the-Bear outfit who went by the name “Wavy Gravy” was in charge of security. He reportedly threatened guests engaging in shenanigans with “fizzy water and custard pies.”
- Wavy Gravy’s “Please Force” was comprised of bikers and members of a New Mexico commune hired by absolutely no one to police the event.
- A local group of volunteers from a nearby Jewish community center attempted to help alleviate concerns about food by making and distributing thousands of sandwiches.
- A concession stand which attempted to take advantage of the food shortage reportedly raised their prices from $0.25 to $1 for a hamburger. It was burnt down by festival goers.
- The U.S. Army airlifted thousands of pounds of food, water, and medical supplies to the anti-Vietnam War crowds throughout the duration of the festival.
- Some guests opted to enjoy the iconic performances sans clothing.
- Governor Nelson Rockefeller declared the area a state of emergency in order to facilitate the delivery of supplies to the hundreds of thousands of attendees.
- Several attempts have been made to plan commemorative festivals in 1979, 1989, 1994, 1999, and in 2019.
- In 1994, it was reported by the New York Times that hundreds of pounds of garbage remained in the area surrounding Max Yasgur’s dairy farm even though festival organizers supposedly spent tens of thousands on cleaning crews who were supposed to clean up the site.
- The site of the festival is now home to The Bethel Woods Center for the Arts performing arts center which comfortably seats 5,000, not 500,000.
- Jimi Hendrix was the highest paid performing artists. He reportedly took home $18,000, or twice his normal performance rate.
- In 2018, a group of archaeologists completed a five-day excavation of the site and collected bits of broken glass bottles, pull tabs from aluminum cans. Their goal was to outline the exact location of the stage where dozens of iconic performers graced attendees with their presence for four days in August 1969.
- Many cows were in attendance. After all, it was a dairy farm.
What’s the wildest Woodstock story you’ve heard? Were you at Woodstock? We’d love to hear your stories! Share with us on social using the hashtag #MHOFWoodstock50.
I was 19, and at Woodstock only because I’d missed the one before it in New Jersey. A bare acquaintance and I hitchhiked from Virginia Beach. It took only two or three rides to get all the way there, where we were pleased to find the fences taken down and admission fees abandkned. We only heard about the “massive traffic jam” the following day – from, I think it was Country Joe: “The New York Throughway is CLOSED!”
On the way home, the two of us were stopped by a NY Statie – hitchhiking ON the GW Bridge. Duh.
” Empty your pockets, boys,” he said, “and put EVERYTHING on the car’s trunk.
Luckily for us he did not recognize what the two slightly blackened seashells glued together actually was – We could hardly believe our luck when he said, “OK, now get going – and DON’T let me catch you on here again!”
Sorry for being so dim, but what WERE the glued together 2 blackened seashells?
It was Arlo Guthrie who said, “The NY State Thruway is closed, man!”
Many performers demanded to be paid in cash before going on stage which contributed to the lack of financial resources available.
I was born too late in 1974. I’m from Detroit. The realest music festival I’ve ever attended was the first Lollapalooza in ‘91. Back when Pine Knob was still Pine Knob, and “89X” was a show that we tuned into on Sunday nights from 7 till midnight to hear “alternative” music. Alternative meaning an actual alternative to mainstream pop, which, semi-ironically, is exactly what that music ended up morphing into.
That night at Pine Knob, as the sun finally set on the hill, and Jane’s Addiction took the main stage, people started lighting fires up and down the hill to dance around. I stood at the top of the hill by myself, having misplaced my friends. Jane’s opened with “Up the Beach” and, God, they sounded PERFECT. His voice will always be the one I hear in my head when I think about that time in my life.
Lollapalooza was definitely memorable, and in many ways epitomized my generation, but well, it was no Woodstock. Everything real was winding down. Even that will never happen again.
Especially now. Now? We’re really done.
I am wholly convinced that everything great has already happened. There are no more lyrics to write, and no more sounds to make. There’s nothing left to be discovered or created. People now are empty. Vapid. Rude. Phony. Boring and cruel. These days a guy like Donald Trump can buy himself a “presidency” and Madonna can look 23 at 63.
No. I am as certain as I can be that on December 31st, 1999, at 11:59 PM? Something DIED. I guess I’m just glad I was around to catch the tail end of it. Sort of.
I don’t believe it was the NY State Thruway that was closed. The Thruway was a good 50 miles away. It must have been the Quickway, or Rt 17, that was very close to the festival.
Jethro Tull is not a “he”, it’s the name of a band. Perhaps you meant Ian Anderson.