Last Friday morning, the 40th Anniversary celebrations of the Woodstock festival kicked off at the Bethel Woods Center For The Arts on the very site where the festival took place 40 years ago to the day. Richie Havens, the legendary folk musician, who opened the festival in 1969 fittingly, opened the celebrations on this glorious morning in Bethel in 2009 in front of an audience of some 200 invited guests and media.
Just inside the main gates of Bethel Woods on a small ready-made stage looking down the hill towards where the stage stood in ’69 Havens and his 2 backing musicians greeted the audience and went straight into “Motherless Child/Freedom” the song he famously improvised on stage in 1969. At Woodstock, Havens played a near 3 hour set due, in part to the fact that other musicians were having a hard time getting into (and out of) Bethel back then. Actually, anyone who goes to a show at Bethel Woods will know that the traffic situation isn’t much better in 2009! Havens thanked the gathered media and guests and was ushered off while we went for a great lunch.
We were invited to tour the grounds on the golf carts, so popped over the official Woodstock monument where there was a real buzz. There were several media outlets over there interviewing people and capturing the vibe. Back over in the Market Shed in Bethel Woods several key players from the original Woodstock festival had made themselves available for interview including Pete Fornatale, Sam Yasgur, Duke Devlin(The hippie who hitched to Bethel from Texas in ’69 to be at Woodstock, and liked it so much he ended up staying) and of course, Richie Havens.
Afterwards, I visited the museum, which was sold out for the day (but made available to us) where the crowd was quite large. Having visited the museum before I opted out of dealing with the crowds in there and headed downstairs to see the John Lennon-Hair Peace exhibit, which alone is worth the visit to the museum. All in all an excellent start to the 40th Anniversary celebrations.
To anyone who has yet to visit the Bethel Woods Center For the Arts I would suggest getting your skates on as there are a limited number of shows left this season at the main pavilion. It is a beautifully groomed, extremely well maintained and groomed venue with state of the art facilities-even the bathrooms are impressively clean!
Be sure to check out http://www.bethelwoodscenter.org and plan your visit today!