The recent Ang Lee movie “Taking Woodstock” has renewed interest in one of the most famous cultural groups of all time, hippies. Hippies have always been popular subjects for films, TV shows, and Halloween costumes. Woodstock was the event that brought hippies into the spotlight and made them a permanent part of pop culture.
Woodstock, also called the Woodstock Festival, was held in 1969 during the height of the hippie movement. It was held on a 600 acre farm in rural upstate New York, near the town of Bethel. The three day music festival drew more than 400,000 hippies and music fans from around the country and during the course of those three days some of the most famous musicians in history played like Credence Clearwater Revival, Joan Baez, Ravi Shankar, The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Crosby, Stills and Nash and most famously Jimi Hendrix, whose cover of The Star Spangled Banner on electric guitar is still considered be one of the primary symbols of the hippie movement.
The Woodstock festival was the brainchild of four men who had very different backgrounds. John Roberts and Joel Rosenman were the financial wizards who put up the money to hold the free outdoor music festival. Artie Kornfeld and Michael Lang were the creative geniuses who originally had an idea to create a top rate music studio on the site but kept brainstorming until the idea for the three days music and arts festival took shape. The festival was designed as a money making concert but a last minute change of venue to the Bethel site along with headaches and hassles about security as well as recording who had paid for tickets and who hadn’t led the creators to simply declare it a free concert to eliminate all the hassles. The creators were offered $100,000 to let a movie studio film the concert, and made money from other opportunities like the sale of concessions.
The town of Bethel actively fought against hosting the festival. Poor site preparation and the arrival of nearly half a million hippies on a site that had been prepared for only 50,000 people led to serious food shortages, sanitation problems, and other logistical problems. Despite this the concert attendees were happy, peaceful, and only a few incidents of violence occurred during the festival. The total opposite occurred when another Woodstock festival was held in 1999. Poor event planning and ridiculously high fees, along with other problems, led to mass chaos with injuries, arson fires, and reported assaults that shocked the country.
The legacy of the original Woodstock concert that stands today is the image of the 1960s hippie that is etched into popular culture. Hippies with long hair, headbands, patchwork clothes, tribal jewelry and lots of peach signs and Grateful Dead bears are seen in magazines, on TV, in films, and of course on Halloween. Hippie costumes are fun to put together and fun to wear, and are appropriate for all ages.