The History of Woodstock

Woodstock Music Festival August 15-16-17-18, 1969

In August 1969, the most celebrated music festival in history took place. At a time when Americans were deeply divided, nearly 500,000 people from across the country gathered to celebrate “Three Days of Peace and Music.” The three days of legendary performances, unimaginable mud, and unforgettable experiences helped the Woodstock Music and Art Fair become a symbol of an entire generation, and made Woodstock a name known all over the world.

Woodstock History


The Town of Woodstock – established in 1787 – is located in New York State, about 100 miles (161 kilometers) north of New York City. It is about 15 miles (24 kilometers) west of the City of Kingston, which is situated on the Hudson River.

Woodstock played host to a number of painters of the Hudson River School in the late 1800’s. In 1902, the Arts and Crafts Movement came to Woodstock. Ever since then Woodstock has been considered an active artists colony. From 1915 through 1931 Hervey White’s Maverick Art Colony held the Maverick Festivals, “in which hundreds of free spirits gathered each summer for music, art, theater and drunken orgies in the woods. A series of Woodstock Soundouts were staged on the outskirts of the town from 1967 to 1970. These events featured folk and rock acts like Richie Havens, Paul Butterfield and Van Morrison. Together with the area’s reputation as an arts center, these inspired the original Woodstock Festival’
organizers to plan their concert in the town.

The Organizers of Woodstock

The Woodstock Festival was organized by four young men: John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, Artie Kornfield, and Mike Lang. The oldest of the four was only 27 years old at the time of the Woodstock Festival.

Roberts – an heir to a pharmaceutical fortune – and his friend Rosenman were looking for a way to use Roberts’ money to invest in an idea that would make them even more money. After placing an ad in the New York Times that stated: “Young men with unlimited capital looking for interesting legitimate investment opportunities and business propositions,” they met Kornfield and Lang.

The Plan for the Woodstock Festival

Kornfield and Lang’s original proposal was to build a recording studio and retreat for rock musicians up in Woodstock, New York (where Bob Dylan and other musicians already lived). The idea morphed into creating a two-day rock concert for 50,000 people with the hope that the concert would raise enough money to pay for the studio.

The four young men then went to work organizing a large music festival. They found a location for the event in an industrial park in nearby Wallkil, New York. However, this location was rejected by the town fathers, so the organizers finally settled for a 600 acre dairy farm location in Bethel, New York.

They printed tickets ($7 for one day. $13 for two days, and $18 for three days), which could be purchased in select stores or via mail order. They also worked on organizing food, signing musicians, and hiring security.

Despite all the organizer’s challenges, the Woodstock Festival got started nearly on time. On Friday evening, August 15 TH, Richie Havens went on stage and officially opened the Festival. Sweetwater, Joan Baez, and other folk artists also played that night.

The music resumed again shortly after noon on Saturday with Quill, and went on non-stop until Sunday morning around 9:00 AM. The day of psychedelic bands went on with such musicians as Santana, Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, and The Who, as well as others. By Sunday, it was obvious that the festival was winding down. Most of the crowd left that day, leaving about 150,000 people on Sunday night. Jimi Hendrix, the last musician to play at Woodstock, finished his set on Monday morning. By then the crowd was down to about 25,000 people. Thus, the most popular musical event in history ended.

Yes, history was made that weekend by a concert that was heard around the world, and Woodstock became a name known around the world.