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Dedicated to the Historic Preservation of the Site of the 1969 Woodstock Festival
THE WOODSTOCK SITE
Hurd & West Shore Rds
Woodstock Land for Sale, but Yasgur’s Legacy Lives
By Jeff Blumenfeld
Originally published in the Syracuse New Times. 7/28/73. Presented with thanks to The New Times, Mr. Blumenfeld, and Paul Lichtenberger, who supplied an original copy of the newspaper.
$85,000 the family of Max Yasgur will sell you the 40-acre
birthplace of the Woodstock Nation.
While some attribute historical value to that particular
tract of land outside Monticello, N.Y., the price merely reflects
the going rate for 40 acres of fertile soil in the Catskill Mountain
farming community of Bethel.
the land that once belonged to the late Max Yasgur has been sold,
yet the “festival field” was one of the last to go because Max and
his wife Mimi were sentimentally attached to the property.
Woodstock entrepreneurs Michael Land and John Roberts were driven
out of Wallkill, N.Y. (40 miles further down Route 17), the maverick
dairy farmer rented his land to them for $50,000, despite personal
threats against his life and a threatened boycott of his milk.
ago, during a late-night interview with The New York Times, Yasgur
said: “I told Lang and
Roberts, ‘If you fellows can get complete approval from all safety
authorities, you can rent my property.’”
Some of the Sullivan County elders were outraged at Yasgur’s
proposal. At one of the
last town board meetings held before the event, Yasgur was present
to defend himself from county and state safety officials.
asked each official if there were any legal stipulations within
their respective departments that hadn’t been met to accommodate the
expected 40,000 people per day.
When no reservations were raised, he addressed the entire
meeting: “So the only
objection to having a festival here is to keep longhairs out of
town?” A murmer of dissent swept through the heavily conservative
Republican crowd, and Yasgur bellowed:
“Well, you can all go pound salt up your ass, because come
Aug. 15, we’re going to have a festival!”
He stormed out of the room, and the rest became rock
years to follow, as he sold his business and retired to a winter
home in Florida, he became a realtor.
It was hard to keep a sign in front of his home, he said,
because anything with the name Yasgur on it was a collector’s item.
have been a rich man in those post-Woodstock days.
All he had to do was join forces with the hip capitalists who
approached him with schemes to market Yasgur-for-President T-shirts,
Yasgur posters and milk from Yasgur cows.
Max refused to prostitute himself that way.
He said once:
“I’ll be god-damned if I’ll capitalize on what was an accident!”
of drugs on his land, however, bothered him a great deal; LSD in
particular. “Any kid I
can get off from drugs means more to me,” he commented, “than
endorsing some nutty product.”
Before he died, hundreds of festival-goers wrote to say that
as a result of Woodstock and the personal ideals Maxx publicized
later on, they quit drugs.
As Yasgur put it:
“To me this means everything.”
sales for the current Watkins Glen Summer Jam have reached near
Woodstock proportions, and the state hasn’t seen anything like it
since 1969. In early
1971, Yasgur remarked:
“The worst thing about Woodstock was that there were just too many.
I wouldn’t have done it if I knew there were going to be half
a million instead of 40,000…Bethel is a rural town and can’t service
a crowd that big…I have no right to have any kind of affair that
would block vital services from reaching my neighbors.”
Yasgur died Feb. 8 in Marathon, Fla. of a heart ailment.
Three days later, 300 of his neighbors attended the funeral
Recently, Mimi Yasgur said in a telephone interview:
“Someone mentioned to me how strange it was that none of the
young people who had come back so often before made it to the
come back, but didn’t want to disturb the family by crowding the
services. A neighboring
Bethel farmer passing the site after the funeral told Mrs. Yasgur
that a group of young people had gathered at the field.
“We just wanted to say goodbye to Max in our own way,” they
not much left at the festival site to see anymore.
The charred traces of campfires still dot the woods
surrounding Lake Shore Drive and Hurd Road, but one of the last
remaining structures, the skeleton of the performer’s tent, was
recently torn down.
residents objected to the magnetic attraction it had upon an endless
stream of youths who continue to drive through those back roads.
The owner of the land directly opposite the stage location
was pressured into removing the “eyesore.”
Originally, the Yasgurs wanted to donate five acres overlooking the
festival crossroads to the Town of Bethel.
They had intended to turn the wooden platforms and lean-tos
into a park area, but the idea fell through when the community
indicated a park would not be welcome.
A short while ago, Mrs. Yasgur admitted:
“The community did not want to encourage young people to come
into the area.”
at nearby resort hotels, summer tourists, and even some local
residents come back to stop and walk among the alfalfa, or just slow
down to picture 400,000 people in their mind’s eye.
Each year there’s talk of erecting some sort of monument to
commemorate the event.
Woodstock, the only thing Sullivan County could mark in its history
books was an Indian raid during the Revolutionary War and the
opening of the Ontario and Western railroad 100 years ago.
Although the tourist guide books proudly commemorate the two
earlier events, for the past four years the people of Bethel have
opposed any publicity in connection with the Woodstock Aquarian
Exposition and Music and Art Fair.
this month a Monticello reporter proposed buying the land and
turning it into an attractive park to bolster the region’s economy.
He recommended buying Max Yasgur’s home and turning it into a
festival museum for such memorabilia as Joan Baez’ maternity dress,
Janis Joplin’s love beads, a Port-O-San outdoor toilet and a
spectacular lighted diorama, a la Gettysburg.
Yasgur, however, isn’t about to sell her home or the 70-acres that
surround it. “My home
is not for sale,” she says.
“Certainly not right now!”
Yasgur is going through her husband’s papers and stacks of
correspondence from throughout the world.
In another box is a collection of tapes that she has yet to
play because of the deep emotional impact they would have upon her.
Before he died, Yasgur completed five chapters of a book he
was collaborating on, and all the material has been recorded.
1971, Yasgur began work along a different theme.
The Woodstock Letters would have been a compilation of his
Work on the title was cancelled when publishers convinced him
people would be more interested in an autobiography than in a
collection of letters.
months Yasgur balked, arguing that he was only the “landlord” and
really had nothing to do with the festival.
Yet with his “I’m a farmer…” speech he became a father image
for Woodstock and its patron saint.
He eventually realized people were interested in what he had
to say and would respect his idealism.
Grudgingly, he recorded personal reminiscences, but chose to espouse
a hard line against drugs.
He once said:
“Provided all facilities were available, if a festival could be held
drug free—and I know I’m dreaming—they could have all the private
sex and nudity they wanted.”
the book will come out, but Mrs. Yasgur has no strong compulsions
about finishing it. For
Max, it was much too autobiographical.
For his wife and grandchildren, it’s a precious record of a
man who was proudest as a successful farmer and as a good provider
for his family.
“Woodstock was no achievement for Max,” Mrs. Yasgur revealed, “the
festival was just an extraordinary event that widened his experience
in life because of his contact with these people.”
is best characterized by a comment he once made to his wife:
“When I decide that I have to drive by someone in need of
help and not stop, that’s not the kind of world I want to live in.”
was the lesson of Woodstock, a three-day social experiment in
brotherhood that showed the world that man could indeed “get
together for fun and music and have nothing but fun and music.”
copyright 1996-2000 Yasgur Road Productions.
All rights reserved.