Nostalgia: A Look Back At Woodstock

Derick Chetty | August 15th, 2017

On this day (Aug. 15), 48 years ago, one of the most iconic music festivals took place on a patch of farmland in White Lake, New York.

The Woodstock Music & Art Fair—which would later go down in history as simply Woodstock—was a four day event where 32 acts performed outdoors in a farmer’s field in the Catskills area and a record 400,000 people showed up.

While the festival was initially conceived as a commercial venture by a couple of music promoters, it came to define the counter-culture generation of that era and Rolling Stone magazine would later hail it as one of the “50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock and Roll.” 

There were other music festivals that took place in 1969—including The Stones in the Parka free concert in Hyde Park in London where The Rolling Stones was the headline act—but none achieved the same enduring status as Woodstock.

Some of the original promoters are actually planning to stage another Woodstock festival to celebrate the 50th anniversary in 2019.

In the meantime, scroll through our pictures for a trip down memory lane.

NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - AUGUST 1969: Overall of crowds of young people milling around big yellow tents during the Woodstock Music & Art Fair. (Photo by John Dominis/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

It rained, turning the field into mud—only adding to the misery, which isn’t often mentioned. There was also poor sanitation and a lack of food. But despite these conditions, and the size of the crowd, no acts of violence was reported. Joni Mitchell, who was not in attendance due to a prior engagement, watched it on television in a hotel room as it unfolded and reportedly described it as “A modern day fishes and loaves story. For a herd of people that large to co-operate so well was pretty remarkable, and there was a tremendous optimism. So I wrote the song ‘Woodstock’ out of these feelings.”

View of a group of people as they step over a torn-down fence in order to enter the grounds of the Woodstock Music & Art Festival, Bethel, New York, August 1969. (Photo by Bill Eppridge/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

While organizers told officials only 50,000 people would show up, they sold 186,000 tickets which were advertised as $18 in advance and $24 at the gate. But more than 400,000 people showed up. However, there wasn’t enough fencing or ticket booths to handle such a crowd, so most people just crashed the venue for free.

A couple play the guitar sitting on their car on the way to the Woodstock Festival, August 1969. (Photo by Baron Wolman/Iconic Images/Getty Images)

The road to the rural concert site was jammed and chaotic. Many people abandoned their cars and just started walking. Musicians were personally helicoptered into the venue. Radio and television news reports started advising people not to head to the festival and the New York governor even threatened to send in thousands of National Guard troops.

A group of people milk a cow at the Woodstock Music & Art Fair, Bethel, NY, August 15, 1969. (Photo by Baron Wolman/Iconic Images/Getty Images)

Woodstock didn’t actually take place in the town of Woodstock. Securing a location was difficult as none of the small towns wanted a large gathering of hippies in their neighbourhood. At the last minute, a dairy farmer in Bethel, NY, agreed to allow the festival to take place on his land.

An unidentified, mustachioed young man, barefoot but dressed in a flowered kaftan, carries what appears to be three packs of cigarettes as he strides through the grass at the Woodstock Music and Arts Fair in Bethel, New York, August 15 - 17 (and part of the 18th), 1969. (Photo by Bill Eppridge/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

While Woodstock was a pivotal moment in music history, the legendary festival was also at the height of the Aquarian era, also served as an enduring source of inspiration for the fashion industry. Denim, fringe, caftans and psychedelic prints—all of which could be seen at the festival—are currently having a moment back in the fashion spotlight this season.

View of the original poster (David Byrd, artist) for the Woodstock Festival (or Woodstock Music and Art Fair, as the poster reads), 'An Aquarian Exposition,' 1969. The poster gives the event's original location of Wallkill, New York, which was changed shortly before the scheduled date, August 15-17, to Bethel, New York. (Photo by Blank Archives/Getty Images)

The original poster art (above) by David Byrd billed Woodstock as “An Aquarian Exposition.”