BETHEL (WBNG) — Woodstock, it’s associated with peace, love, and rock and roll. Fifty years ago, three days changed a generation and the ones to follow.
Just east of the Southern Tier down Route 17-B, you’ll find a select few reveling in the past, still fresh in their minds.
“It was an extraordinary time to be alive,” said Oneonta native Jim Lewis. “When we were here and we were in our 20’s we thought we were at the cusp of changing the world.”
No one expected what would happen when artists gathered on a farm in Bethel, New York.
“I hitch-hiked all the way down to the concert, luckily got a ride most of the way with two guys who came all the way from California,” Lewis said. “The car that I was in broke down just before Monticello, so we walked that evening as far as White Lake and I spread out my sleeping bag on the porch of the White Lake post office and tried to get some rest. Next morning, I woke up at six o’clock and started my trek in.”
He walked into what would become three days that changed his and more than 300,000 other lives.
“Those groups were sort of like our heroes, all the people that played were our heroes,” said Denny Lynch who traveled from Baltimore to see the festival. “For us we were having such a good time. Yes we were cold, yes we were wet, yes we were hungry, but it was nonstop, it was like watching your Greek gods and goddesses rock stars.”
“Equally mind blowing as the music was, was the peace and the atmosphere and the attitudes of the people here,” said Carl Porter from Bethel.
Not knowing at the time, they all shared experiences that shaped their generation.
“I can’t think about the 60’s without thinking about this place summing it up,” said Porter.
But as time moves on, memories fade and for some, like Lewis, the original grounds mean more than words can express. Lewis hadn’t visited the original site since the concert, until 12 News brought him back home.
“The spirit that just sort of like encompassed the whole site was extra ordinary, you can’t ever duplicate it. I haven’t been back in 50 years, this is the first time I’ve been back and part of that is because they say you can’t go home again and I’m getting a little emotional, a little emotional, and it was a big part of my life,” Lewis said.
As all three look back at their past, they’re also looking forward with optimism for the future.
“I think the best takeaway is the peace and love attitude of the time, it’s really missing today,” said Porter.
“The next generation has to carry on and have their own things that they’re absolutely passionate about, including their music,” said Lynch.
The Bethel Woods Center for the Arts took over the original site of Woodstock in 2006. Information on its programming and anniversary events can be found here.