Woodstock Festival Goers Hugging
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Unseen Photos Reveal the Real Experience of Woodstock

Entertainment

| LAST UPDATE 04/30/2023

By Malikah Mcintosh

Over five decades later, Woodstock is still recognized as one of the most influential movements in American history. The festival promoted unity and music, creating some of the most iconic moments in time...

Traffic Jam

The year was 1969, and people were fighting their way to get into the most sought-out music festival of the decade. The original venue was planned to take place in the town of Woodstock itself, but things quickly changed…

Traffic Jam School BusTraffic Jam School Bus
Owen Franken via Getty Images

After local residents quickly rejected the idea, the festival was moved to Max Yasgur's dairy farm in Bethel, New York, and people from far and wide drove in to celebrate music and art together. However, hundreds of thousands of people were all traveling at the same time, causing major mayhem.

Injuries Along the Way

Thousands of party-goers were fleeing into the small town simultaneously, so clearly, issues were on the horizon. The roads were completely jam-packed to the point that people even abandoned their cars, got out, and started walking to the festival.

Woodstock Traffic Jam HighwayWoodstock Traffic Jam Highway
Hulton Archive via Getty Images

Those dedicated to remaining in their cars were trapped inside for hours! Unfortunately, things also got a bit rough out on the roads as well. One young man even suffered head injuries after being thrown out onto the road, but ambulances could not reach the scene.

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Riding in Style

However difficult it was for people to get through the jam-packed traffic and to the three-day music and art festival, people were still very dedicated to getting there! And some festival-goers decided it was better to roll up in style, and this guy did just that!

Woodstock Car Decorated HighwayWoodstock Car Decorated Highway
Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

However difficult it was for people to get through the jam-packed traffic and to the three-day music and art festival, people were still very dedicated to getting there! And some festival-goers decided it was better to roll up in style, and this guy did just that!

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Tickets for Sale

Let's take a second to mourn the days when festivals cost anywhere from $6 to $8 per day. Today, a general admission ticket to Coachella starts at $550 (and that's without anything included). In recent years, festivals have really started to spike up in price.

Woodstock Tickets Original PriceWoodstock Tickets Original Price
Blank Archives via Getty Images

However, the entire purpose of Woodstock was for people to gather together in peace and unity during a time of uncertainty. The festival wanted to encourage people from all walks of life to attend and enjoy three days of music and art, explaining its low-cost price tag.

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Arnold Skolnick's Poster

The original Woodstock poster, created by graphic designer Arnold Skolnick, features a white dove sitting on top of a blue guitar. However, the artist first designed it to be a catbird and a flute. "It sat on a flute for a day, and I finally ended up putting it on a guitar," he said.

Woodstock Poster Graphic DesignWoodstock Poster Graphic Design
STAN HONDA/AFP via Getty Images

Solnick chose bright colors to represent the high energy, hippie vibes the festival aimed to represent. Additionally, he decided to leave the band names all the same size and font with no particular order in order to continue with the festival's theme of equality and peace.

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Record-Breaking Crowds

The organizers of the festival worked with Max Yasgur, a dairy farmer whose property was home to the festival. At the time, no one could have ever imagined the number of people attending the festival, as the organizers had predicted at most 50,000.

Woodstock Crowd Aerial ViewWoodstock Crowd Aerial View
Dick Kraus/Newsday via Getty Images

However, they were strongly mistaken. On the morning of August 15th, the festival housed an estimated 450,000 people, roughly 400,000 more than they originally predicted. The New York governor even considered sending in 10,000 National Guard troops at the time, but the organizers convinced him not to.

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Building the Stage

With the location, change meant many technical changes as well. Because the venue was changed so close to the production date, the organizers had a whole lot on their plate! Besides all the logistical details, the production team had to build an entirely new stage.

Building Woodstock Stage 1960sBuilding Woodstock Stage 1960s
AP via Shutterstock

The team was tasked with completing the stage that would eventually support some of the biggest names in music. Not to mention close to half a million people would be surrounding themselves around the stage in order to get up close and personal with the performers.

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Early Birds

The venue change not only meant preparing the stage, but it also meant dealing with the festival-goers. The organizers had to complete the new fencing around the premises as well as the ticket booths but soon came to realize both those tasks would become an issue.

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FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty Images

50,000 "early birds." showed up before the festival had even started and sat in front of the half-finished stage. The organizers definitely did not expect the hundreds of thousands of people who showed up for the weekend, so many of the concert-goers walked in without tickets.

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Staying Hydrated

With the hundreds of thousands of people flooding through the festival, there were obviously some problems that would naturally occur. Due to the fact that the producers severely underestimated the number of people attending the festival, there were a few shortages.

Woodstock Water Tank PeopleWoodstock Water Tank People
Ralph Ackerman via Getty Images

The most important was water. After a day of partying at Woodstock, water was an actual necessity. However, there were only five water trucks available. In this photo, we see people patiently lining up to fill up their containers with the little water available.

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Food Shortage

Clearly, the concert organizers were under-prepared when nearly half a million people attended the three-day festival. And as an outcome, food was hard to find. The organizers first hired Nathan's Famous hot dogs to provide food, but they dropped out when the venue moved.

Woodstock Attendee Eating FoodWoodstock Attendee Eating Food
AP via Shutterstock

Festival promoter Michael Lang later admitted no one wanted to work such an event because "no one had ever handled food services for an event this size" before. However, Lang quickly hired Food For Love to serve food, where they were charging $1 for hot dogs, and the Hog Farmers who made a genuine impact on the festival.

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Hog Farmers

This decorated school bus belonged to the Hog Farmers. This group of men was tasked with helping build the venue, assisting the security, and helping provide food for the event. However, this was no small task, and by the look on their faces, all they wanted to do was party instead.

Woodstock Bus Hippies PeaceWoodstock Bus Hippies Peace
Ralph Ackerman via Getty Images

The Hog Farmers bus was located near the 'Free Stage.' Like most modern music festivals, Woodstock was home to more than just music. The festival embraced freedom, unity, and love through music and art. The Free Stage was a section for musicians and the public to just jam.

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Dirty Fun

At the end of the day, Woodstock was all about being free and having fun. There may have been a lack of food and water, but there was no lack of good vibes. The festival-goers were there to have a good time, so when things started to get a bit slippery, people just embraced it.

Woodstock Mud People DirtyWoodstock Mud People Dirty
Owen Franken/Corbis via Getty Images

After thousands of people got together on an open field, things were bound to get dirty. Certain areas of the floor became muddy, so people took that opportunity and turned it into a window of opportunity for a mudslide! It may have been a mix of dirt and feces, but that wasn't stopping anybody.

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Racing Toward the Finish Line

In fact, running through the mud quickly became a top form of entertainment for the festival's attendees. People were looking to let loose, bring out their inner child, run wild, and have a good time hand-in-hand with the person standing next to them, and that's what they were doing.

Woodstock Field Games RacingWoodstock Field Games Racing
Owen Franken via Getty Images

In this photograph, we see three men covered in mud racing toward the finish line with a crowd of people around them cheering them on. Despite being covered head-to-toe in a combination of feces and dirt, these guys were just looking to have a good time!

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Taking a Dip

Luckily for them, there was a stream right nearby on the property. The stream was the perfect hangout spot for festival-goers who wanted to take a little break from the party and get their toes a little bit wet. It was also the ideal place to take a shower!

Woodstock Woods Stream WaterWoodstock Woods Stream Water
Howard Arnold Collection via Getty Images

Three days without bathing? No thanks! Whether you were covered in dirt from sliding in mud all day, sweaty from dancing all night long, or just wanted to take a dip, the stream was right there. Nowadays, festivals have on-site showers and bathrooms…

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Trendsetters

The festival-goers were a combination of hippies, anti-war youth, and those who felt like "the system" was working against them. So when Woodstock, a celebration of peace and love, came about, people's fashion choices truly reflected just that.

Woodstock Trendy Festival GoersWoodstock Trendy Festival Goers
Ralph Ackerma via Getty Images

Women rocked bold color patterns, ponchos, peace signs, chain belts, bubble sleeves, bell bottoms, and medallion necklaces." Men were often seen in tie-dye, bell-bottomed jeans, and headbands. A lot of the time, festival-goers chose to go barefoot or topless as well.

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Love at Woodstock

People came to Woodstock to celebrate life and love-and this couple was doing just that. What they didn't know then is that they would soon become the face of the festival in years to come. That's right; this iconic photo was documented as the festival's album cover.

Woodstock Festival Goers HuggingWoodstock Festival Goers Hugging
FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty Images

Nick and Bobbi Ercoline were just a couple of kids when they went to the three-day festival. And now, years later, the couple is still together. "I look at it [the photograph] every day," Bobbi said. "I met Nick, we fell in love, and it was the beginning of my best life."

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The Who

And it wasn't just the festival-goers who were there to have a good time; the performers also arrived ready to have some fun. The English rock band formed in the '60s, The Who, took the stage on day two for an unforgettable performance, which later became a highlight of the 1970 Woodstock documentary and soundtrack album.

Woodstock The Who BandWoodstock The Who Band
FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty Images

The band hit the Sunday morning 5:30 am slot but still managed to hype the crowd up and deliver an excellent performance. Pete Townshend played his guitar behind his head, Keith Moon crushed the drums, John Entwistle did his thing on the bass, and Roger Daltrey worked the mic, as per usual.

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Everyone's Invited

And it wasn't just adults who were there to have a good time; it was everyone -children included. Woodstock housed close to half a million people at the time, and everyone was invited! Families brought their small children along with them, and those kids probably had the best time of all.

Woodstock Little Girl CameraWoodstock Little Girl Camera
Ralph Ackerman via Getty Images

This little girl is standing next to a cameraman filming the Free Stage at Woodstock, and in the background, we can see men leaning against the famous decorated school bus used by the Hog Farmers. Although she may not have many memories from the festival, this sure is one of the greatest photos to have been captured.

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Jimi Hendrix

The electric guitarist was the most anticipated act of the weekend, but due to weather complications, his set was pushed back, which meant around 40,000 were present. Hendrix had just formed a new band, Gypsy Sun and Rainbows, and together they went out there and killed it.

Jimi Hendrix Guitar WoodstockJimi Hendrix Guitar Woodstock
Peter Tarnoff/Mediapunch via Shutterstock

It was Monday morning, and Hendrix was responsible for closing the three-day Woodstock Music & Art Fair. Their two-hour show quickly became one of the most memorable of their entire careers, performing hit songs like Purple Haze and Foxy Lady.

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Aerial Views

People were doing anything they could to get as close to the stage as possible. The music was flowing, people were feeling themselves, and they just wanted to feel the music! However, with half a million people in the crowd, people had to get creative.

Woodstock Festival Goers StructureWoodstock Festival Goers Structure
Warner Bros/Michael Ochs Archives via Getty Images

So, some festival-goers decided their best bet was to get a more aerial view by climbing up the sound tower, and no one said a word! It's not like today, where we have high-def jumbo screens on either side of the stage projecting the concert, so people did whatever it took to get up close and personal.

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Joe Cocker

It was day three, and an English band named The Grease kicked off the festival's last day. With Joe Cocker as the frontman, their performance quickly became one of the most memorable. Joe was known for his gritty voice and vibrant stage presence.

Joe Cocker The GreaseJoe Cocker The Grease
Fotos International via Getty Images

Dressed in the ultimate Woodstock outfit, Joe closed out his set with a true crowd-pleaser. The musician sang an eight-minute version of his hit cover song, With A Little Help From My Friends. He took that Beatles classic and gave the audience something to sing along to and surely remember.

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Dancing Feet

The music was flowing, and the vibes were high. People from all corners of the country made it to Bethel, New York, for this three-day music and art festival, and there was no denying people were there to have a good time. And this guy here was doing just that.

Woodstock Festival Goer DancingWoodstock Festival Goer Dancing
FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty Images

As many festival-goers were, this guy was letting loose and dancing to the music at all times of the day. There may not have been any music playing in the background, but regardless he was ready to dance. And it looks like he came prepared with a canteen water bottle around his neck!

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Santana

The lineup was full of great artists, but one of the more surprising acts of the weekend was the Latin rock group, Santana. At the time, the group was not as well known as other artists on the bill, but for that reason alone, they were bound to stand out.

David Brown Carlos SantanaDavid Brown Carlos Santana
Victor Englebert/Photo Researchers History via Getty Images

Throughout their set, audience members danced and clapped along to their rhythmic set, and people inhaled the music. The photograph shows bass guitarist David Brown and Carlos Santana on guitar jamming out as the audience begins yelling, "more, more, more, more!"

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The First Act

The pressure was on for Richie Havens. After days of travel, hundreds of thousands of people were gathered together at the festival site, and the show had to go on. Streetwater was initially planned to go on first, but because of the traffic, plans quickly changed, and Richie and his band were on.

Richie Havens Performing PlayingRichie Havens Performing Playing
Ralph Ackerman via Getty Images

So, on August 15, 1969, Richie Havens, Deano Williams, and Daniel Ben Zebulon were flown in on a smaller helicopter and took the stage first. The three guys walked onto the unfinished stage and opened with From the Prison, and due to scheduling issues, there was no act ready to follow Richie. So they completed three encores!

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Arlo Guthrie 

Arlo Guthrie may be 75 years old today, but the young musician was only 19 when he performed at Woodstock in the 60s. The folk singer was most famously known for his songs about social injustice, just like his father, Woody Guthrie. Looking back at the end, he described the festival as a "spontaneous combustion."

Arlo Guthrie Woodstock SingerArlo Guthrie Woodstock Singer
FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty Images

"When I started in 1967, the entertainment industry was run by people who knew how to make records and films and TV shows. Now it's run by people who love money. I think the arts have suffered greatly, because the entertainment industry now has corporate giants looking over their shoulders," Guthrie said regarding the arts.

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No Tent, No Problem

And after a long day (and night) of partying and listening to music, people just fell asleep anywhere. For some more prepared festival-goers, it meant in their tents, and for others, it was wherever they could find space on the floor cuddling up in a sleeping bag (or not).

Woodstock Field Sleeping BagsWoodstock Field Sleeping Bags
Owen Franken via Getty images

But let's not forget what the floor starts to look like after a few hours at a music festival. People threw their trash absolutely everywhere, and because of the rainy weather conditions, the ground quickly turned into mud. So we can only imagine how little sleep was going on at Woodstock, but no one seemed to care.

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Sleepless Nights

People had no choice but to get creative when it came down to getting a few hours of sleep. Between the lack of food, water, and amenities, rest just seemed like another vital part of the weekend that was too going to be affected. But hey, it was Woodstock.

People On Car WoodstockPeople On Car Woodstock
Bettman/Contributor via Getty images

We can see people in the background setting up tents for their three days of sleep, but it looks like this couple decided to ditch the tents and just sleep right on the hood of their car. At this point, whatever worked was going to have to be the way!

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The Aftermath

32 musical acts, ill-prepared concert organizers, and nearly half a million people later, there was bound to be some damage. The 3-day festival had finally come to a close; the masses were starting to head out and back to their everyday lives, and all that was left on the farm was a ton of trash.

Woodstock Trash Leftover MessWoodstock Trash Leftover Mess
Bettman/Contributor via Getty images

The festival was billed as "an Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music," and although it was exactly that, it was also extremely messy! However, some 8,000 attendees volunteered to help clean up the tornado of plastic, crates, trash, and clothing lying about the property. Now that's love.

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Documenting It All

Besides the iconic stories that were passed down from generation to generation, we luckily have documented footage and audio from the 3-day event. There were sound guys that recorded the Woodstock stage performances, as well as guys who were just wandering the crowd with a microphone.

Woodstock Festival Crowds WorkerWoodstock Festival Crowds Worker
Ralph Ackerman via Getty Images

A year later, a documentary film, Woodstock, was released, directed by Michael Wadleigh. The film ended up becoming a huge box office hit, receiving many praises from movie critics far and wide, grossing $50 million. The world was more curious than ever as to what those three days felt like.

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Feeling the Love

And just like that, it was over. Shortly after the festival had ended, Woodstock became known as a monumental touchstone for the counterculture of the '60s. The festival full of peace, love, and unity had brought people together in ways the country had never seen before.

Woodstock Festival Goers HugWoodstock Festival Goers Hug
Ralph Ackerman via Getty Images

Starting with a whole lotta hugging! People were there for the love and to remind each other that, at the end of the day, we're all each other has. Woodstock has continuously been honored over the years, with two follow-up festivals in '94 and '99, with many more celebratory moments to come...

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