Huge Crowds Expected for 50th Anniversary of Woodstock

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Woodstock Museum, Bethel Woods, New York

The seminal event of the summer of 1969, an event that defined a generation, turns 50 years old this weekend.

And the tiny upstate New York town of Bethel is girding for an influx of tourists.

There won’t be close to half-a-million people as there were five decades ago for the original Woodstock music festival, but officials are expecting up to 100,000 visitors who will attend anniversary concerts all weekend, listen to lectures and symposiums and tour the former farm owned by Max Yasgur that hosted the original concert.

Though it was called ‘Woodstock,’ promoters in 1969 could not secure the proper permits as the three-day festival drew closer until Yasgur stepped in and offered his property. The two towns are 58 miles apart. The Yasgur farm has since been turned into the Bethel Woods Center for the Performing Arts, a concert venue and museum containing exhibits from the 1960s and from the original show in 1969. The town of Woodstock remains a funky, eclectic enclave that is also a huge tourist draw.

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There will not be non-stop acts on the main stage as there were 50 years ago, but

Bethel Woods will host concerts on Friday night with Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band; on Saturday with Santana and The Doobie Brothers; and Sunday featuring John Fogerty with Tedeschi Trucks Band & Grace Potter.

But there will be all-day live music on auxiliary stages.

The town of Bethel has a population of about 4,200 full-time residents but is expecting upwards of 100,000. New York State Police, the state Department of Transportation and Sullivan County have prepared for the influx of traffic. They are not necessarily concerned, having survived the 25th and 30th anniversaries, respectively, in 1994 and 1999.

And they don’t expect the kind of massive crowd that shut down the New York State Thruway in 1969.

In addition, concert-goers to Bethel Woods over the weekend must produce travel passes they were issued with their tickets, or they will be turned away at checkpoints.

Lodging for a 50-mile radius has been sold out for months, and town officials expect many visitors to take advantage of a local law that allows public camping on private yards.