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Regional Archives The Altamont Enterprise, September 11, 2008
GOING OUT FOR PEACE & LOVE
By Zach Simeone
Those who missed out on the 1969 Woodstock Music & Art Fair, or just weren’t born yet, are getting another chance to soak up those three legendary days of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.
On Sunday, Sept. 28, the Voorheesville Public Library will be taking a bus trip to the Museum at Bethel Woods. Located in Bethel, N.Y., where the Woodstock festival originally took place, the museum is designed to bring the 1969 spectacle to life through a state-of-the-art, interactive experience.
“A lot of people think it’s only about Woodstock, and that it’s a hippie museum, and that it’s just about sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll,” Museum Director Wade Lawrence said this week.
“We are at the original Woodstock site, and there is a lot there,” he said. “We take pride in the fact that it’s a history museum. It was the culminating event of a tumultuous decade. It sprung from a decade of change, and was the flowering of an entire youth movement. When you put it in that context, it’s really that much more meaningful.”
Barbara Vink, spokeswoman for the Voorheesville library, was the one who pitched the idea for the bus trip.
“I happened to be at a Friends of the Library meeting when they were talking about their fall bus trip,” said Vink. “They usually go to Boston or New York City, and I said ‘I have a good idea.’” She had remembered reading about the new museum.
She’s planning on bringing her 22-year-old grandson, she said. “I think it’s going to be a real experience that I want to share with him.” She thinks that kids today are missing out on the event’s true magnitude.
“They’ve heard of Woodstock, but they have no concept of what it meant to the world,” she said, “or how exciting and monumental it was: three days of peace and love. Older people know so much and have enjoyed so much in their lives, and younger kids don’t know what you’re talking about and things get lost.”
In addition to touring the museum, the bus trip will provide other indulgences. “There’s also going to be a harvest festival going on that weekend,” said Vink.
“The harvest festivals have already started,” Lawrence said. “The last three Sundays, it’s been going on, and it lasts for eight Sundays in the fall. It’s a free event; it’s very popular; and it’s a farmers’ market, craft show, free music, and each week has a different theme.”
“I’m just looking forward to it so much,” Vink said. “I’ve been talking it up to all my friends.”
The Woodstock Mecca
The idea for a Woodstock museum evolved out of the Gary Foundation’s purchase of the land in 1996, Lawrence said. The Gary Foundation is a not-for-profit organization that gives scholarships to prospective college students. At the time of the purchase, there was no particular use in mind for the site.
“They did a few concerts on the field to test out how live music would work, which turned into the idea to build a music pavilion,” Lawrence said. “Then, they thought of doing an interpretive center, which would be a quick walk-through on your way to a concert. As they brought in researchers and professionals, it became obvious that they needed to do something a lot more with the property, and that a museum about Woodstock and the decade that produced it would be far greater.”
After three-and-a-half years of planning and development, the museum opened its doors on June 2 of this year.
Contained within are artifacts from the show, 20 films including never-before-seen footage from the festival, five interactive experiences, and a history exhibit with a timeline of key elements of the sixties: the election and assassination of John F. Kennedy, the civil rights movement, the space race, and the Cold War, to name a few.
Lawrence calls the museum “a multi-sensory experience,” with “lots of sound, lots of film, lots of color, and I think that people will be impressed at the size and quality of the museum,” he said. “This isn’t just a mom-and-pop operation; this is a world-class museum installation. We’ve got the technology, the story, and the vibe that the Woodstock event really inspired.”
The mother lode
The director attributes the quality of the facility to his content development team, “from architects and exhibit designers, to researchers and film production crews,” he said. The mother lode, he said, came from Warner Bros. “They joined the project early on, and gave us access to the millions of feet of footage that was set by Michael Wadleigh and the documentary team.”
When the four-hour documentary was released, much of the film didn’t make it into the final cut. Some of that footage was cut into a new presentation for the museum.
“You’re going to see brand-new stuff that used some of that documentary footage, but also some that you didn’t see. Also, people in the audience that filmed with their super-8’s we had access to that. Basically, we put the word out that we were building a first-class museum, and a lot of people contacted us and were gracious enough to let us use their photos, footage, and artifacts.”
Of the artifacts from Woodstock, Lawrence has two favorites: the first, “a collection of hand-written notes that people left at the information kiosk at Woodstock,” he said. “These are just random notes from people trying to get together.”
The notes, he said, are written on the backs of paper plates, scraps of paper, and other barely-intact objects. “Some of them are lucid, and some aren’t particularly lucid,” he laughed, “but this is a charming reminder that this is before cell phones, before instant messenger, and for a crowd of half-a-million people, it was really hard to communicate with each other.”
The other artifact that sticks out in Lawrence’s mind is the original concert poster that was distributed when the concert was going to take place in Wallkill, N.Y. “The concert was kicked out of Wallkill; there was kind of a not-in-my-backyard mentality,” he said.
The poster was an illustration by artist David Byrd, depicting a nude woman pouring out a jug of water, surrounded by ornate designs covering most of the image.
Byrd created theater and concert posters for Jimi Hendrix, Kiss, The Who, Godspell, and Jesus Christ Superstar, among other music and theater acts. His works are in art collections in museums around the world, including The Louvre in Paris, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, and The Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.
“The promoters had gotten permits to have the festival in Wallkill, but they had anticipated a much smaller crowd,” Lawrence continued. “When the word got out that there were going to be so many more people, people wanted the festival out of Wallkill. The landowner was getting death threats. Eventually, they designed the dove-on the-guitar poster, and the original poster ended up not being used,” he said.
“It’s probably more than people expect,” Lawrence said of the new museum. He advises people to make sure they have at least two hours to spend in the museum to take it all in. “Some people can spend four or more hours and still not see everything, so, I tell people to plan on spending a lot of time in the museum.”
The Sept. 28 Voorheesville Public Library bus trip to the Museum at Bethel Woods will leave the Voorheesville Elementary School at 8:30 a.m. and return at 5 p.m.
The trip costs $35 for Friends of the Library members, and $41 for members of the general public. Both prices include admission to the museum.
Paid reservations for a spot on the trip are being taken at the circulation desk. For more information, call 765-2791.