I Remember Woodstock

FILE - In this Aug. 16, 1969 file photo music fans relax during a break in the entertainment at the Woodstock Music and Arts Fair in Bethel, N.Y. It was great spot for peaceful vibes, but miserable for handling the hordes coming in by car. Fifty years later, memories of the anarchic weekend of Aug. 15-18, 1969, remains sharp among people who were in the crowd and on the stage for the historic festival.

BETHEL, N.Y. (AP) — They helicoptered over crowds into the Woodstock festival and hiked in past abandoned cars. They danced at dawn on a muddy hillside and dodged drenching rain. They barely slept, phoned Mom to say they were OK and marveled at their sheer numbers. They left behind sodden socks and sleeping bags, but gained an enduring sense of community.

I Remember Woodstock

FILE - In this Aug. 16, 1969 file photo, grass and leaf huts are used as makeshift living quarters for some of the attendees at the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival at White Lake in Bethel, N.Y. Fifty years later, memories of the anarchic weekend of Aug. 15-18, 1969, remains sharp among people who were in the crowd and on the stage for the historic festival. (AP Photo/File)

Fifty years later, memories of the anarchic weekend of Aug. 15-18, 1969, remains sharp among people who were in the crowd and on the stage for the historic festival.

Here are their recollections of the Woodstock festival.

GOING UP TO THE COUNTRY

Woodstock was staged 80 miles (130 kilometers) northwest of New York City on a bucolic hillside owned by dairy farmer Max Yasgur. It was a great spot for peaceful vibes, but miserable for handling the hordes coming in by car.

Rock photographer Henry Diltz got to the site early during the setup: “All these hippie carpenters were sawing and hammering, building this huge plywood deck right at the bottom of this big, green hillside. It was like being on an aircraft carrier. The green alfalfa was waving in the breeze ... It was all wonderful. It was like summer camp ... And then suddenly one day there were people sitting up there on the hillside and at first I thought, ‘What the hell are they doing up there?’ and then ‘Oh yeah, right, I forgot. There’s going to be (a concert).’”

I Remember Woodstock

This Aug. 16, 1969 file photo shows a crowd of about 400,000 people attending the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival in Bethel, N.Y. Woodstock was staged 80 miles northwest of New York City on a bucolic hillside owned by dairy farmer Max Yasgur.

Ilene Marder, an 18-year-old traveling up from the Bronx: “People were abandoning their cars — not on the side of the road, but ON the road ... I was very responsible then, ‘You can’t just leave your car in the middle of the road!’ But everyone did ... There was an immediate sense that something was happening that never happened before.”

Singer Nancy Nevin’s band, Sweetwater, was supposed to open Woodstock, but they got caught in traffic: “We got out of the car and kind of glared at each other. And there was no one in charge. You have to remember that everything about Woodstock being chaos is the truth ... Some guy was running around with a t-shirt and walkie-talkie, and he looked like he knew what he was doing. We talked to that guy and he said, ‘Well, I’m going to ask for helicopters.’”

WITH A LITTLE HELP

FROM MY FRIENDS

The enduring story of Woodstock is that more than 400,000 people jammed into an area of about a square mile without a disaster.

Nancy Nevins first saw the crowd from a helicopter: “It didn’t even look like a crowd. It looked like a carpet. It didn’t even look like people, it was a big spread, multi-colored as far as you can see. And Alex (Del Zoppo, Sweetwater’s keyboardist) says to the pilot, ‘What are those crops, man?’ And he laughed and said, ‘Those aren’t crops, dude, those are people.’”

Kevin Rheden was an 18-year-old from the Hudson River Valley: “I’m meandering up through bodies, you know, smiling faces and feeling this overwhelming feeling of comfort. I can’t describe it except to say that the hillside was just like a waterfall of love ... It’s like I’m not alone. There are other people out there that think like me, dress like me, look like me and live like me.”

Henry Diltz : “Late the afternoon I thought, ‘You know, I’m going to walk through that crowd to the top of the hill and turn around and take a photo looking over the crowd down the hill at the stage.’ And so I did that and it took me quite a while to get up there, and by then it was just getting dark and I’m looking down and taking a picture and I hear ... ‘Ladies and gentleman, Crosby, Stills & Nash,’ And I go, ‘Oh s---! There’s my friends, and I’m way up here!’ It took me half the set to get back through the whole crowd and get back up on stage.”

David Crosby of Crosby, Stills & Nash: “I saw people tear a sandwich and share it. Being nice to each other, gave us hope. There is the significant thing. For a minute, we were hopeful. For a minute we were not facing the Vietnam War. For a minute, we were not facing losing the Kennedys. For a minute, Dr. King’s death wasn’t hanging over us. For a minute, we were behaving like decent human beings.”

Annette Nanes, who drove to the festival with a college friend: “You know what they call good vibes? It was an incredible experience with all these people and was very peaceful and just listening to great music. Everyone was really friendly and helpful.”

Country Joe McDonald, performer: “I never saw a fight. At one point from the stage, I saw the crowd kind of separate ... and two guys were circling each other waving their fists like they were going to fight about something. And then somebody handed them a joint and they each took a puff off the joint and then they kind of laughed and hugged each other and then they sat back down.”

RAINBOWS ALL OVER YOUR BLUES

Little went as planned. Fences came down. It became a free concert. The show ran late. Food was scarce. It rained.

Lighting director Chip Monck was told by promoter Michael Lang that he had an extra job: “Michael just tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Oh, by the way, we’ve neglected to hire an emcee and you’re it because you don’t have anything to do in the daytime.’”

William Tindale was among the state troopers dispatched to Bethel: “We just didn’t know what was going to happen. We just sat in a car. It was pretty boring. But we were just concerned about them getting into a riot or something.”

Jefferson Airplane guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and the band arrived Saturday for an evening performance. They ended up playing Sunday: “We got there in the morning. We were supposed to go on at like 6 in the evening. So we had a whole day to kill. Guys had little minibikes, I like two-wheeled things with motors on them, so we got to do that, and just hanging out with our friends.”

Ted Neumann, college student: “The closer you got to the stage on Sunday just meant you were almost underwater, because there were literally streams going down the hill.”

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