It doesn’t quite have the same ring to it… but then again the people who went to Woodstock never actually got to the iconic town either, they went to Bethel…
When the idea of a rock festival was first mooted by the organizers it was thought it would attract 50,000 people. When Woodstock Ventures, the company set up by the four guys that came up with the idea of a festival they leased some land in upstate New York at Wallkill; it was a 300-acre Mills Industrial Park, which offered great access to the freeways and very importantly, water and electricity already on the site.
The four of them had started out with the idea of the zodiac references of an ‘Aquarian Exposition’ and decided the two played well together; they needed to begin running adverts for the event in the press, they also schmoozed the writers from Rolling Stone and Village Voice to accentuate their hip credentials for organizing the festival. They also needed a poster to start advertising. image The problem was that the Wallkill residents were not keen on the idea of ‘bunch of hippies’ take over their town was not going down well. At a meeting on 15 July 1969, to the resident’s delight, The Wallkill Zoning Board of Appeals banned the Woodstock Festival from taking place in their town. It was potentially disaster or was it?
Elliot Tiber the proprietor of Tiber’s White Lake resort read the news and saw this as the opportunity to save his struggling hotel complex. He knew he had something vital to the success of the venture, a permit to run a music festival from the town of Bethel. Tiber got Michael Lang, one of the organizers, on the phone and the next day the rock entrepreneur was in his car on his way to White Lake. When he arrived his first reaction was disappointment; the 15-acre boggy site was far from big enough. This is where Max Yasgur makes his triumphal entry or more to the point Tiber suggests they go and see the diary farmer who owned around 600 acres that would be perfect. Initially Yasgur had been sceptical on the phone with Tiber – he was used to his friend’s failing festival schemes, but eventually, he agreed to meet Lang, who drove over to the now-famous sloping site that was almost perfect for a huge concert.
A deal was quickly done. There was the issue of dealing with the people who lived in Bethel who broadly shared the same views as the Wallkill residents. Central to this was the Woodstock Ventures position of never saying there would be more than 50,000 people showing up for the weekend – despite their certainty that there would be. Mr. Yasgur, of course, was towing the party line, as he wanted to get the $75,000 rental fee, while Elliot Tiber just wanted to fill his 80 rooms.
They just needed a new poster… graphic artist Arnold Skolnik created the now-famous poster; as emblematic of the Sixties as any image. Made more so by the copywriter that came up with the now-famous line. “Three Days of Peace and Music”.