The Daily Star
---- — I went to Woodstock last weekend. No, not the concert site. The village.
We all know by now that the most famous concert of all time was not really in Woodstock. Not by a long shot. It was actually held in a map dot called Bethel, 45 miles away.
Confusing? I agree.
The 1969 concert was the iconic music benchmark of my generation. What started out as a music exposition in Max Yasgur’s rye pasture turned into an unimaginable sensation. The largest concert crowd up to that date flooded the dusty back roads of Sullivan County (“a half a million strong,” in the words of concert act Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young). Babies were born there, people did illegal things there, people came together in a spirit of free love and universal peace and, much to the chagrin of the concert organizers, almost nobody paid. (Hence the famous public address announcement “It’s a free concert, man!”).
No, I didn’t go to that Woodstock. I went to the other one last weekend.
The village of Woodstock tries its level best to maintain the standards of the 1969 event. Main Street has an easy, breezy feel to it, unhurried, relaxed. Some might even call the atmosphere “groovy.” The businesses run from high-end art galleries to head shops selling everything from “Impeach Nixon” buttons to hemp shirts.
There are several great restaurants, wine bars and bakeries in Woodstock proper and a lot of Hudson Valley history. Old homes, white-spired stone churches, a village green, ancient cemeteries and crooked sidewalks all give Woodstock a New Englandy feeling. It’s a fun place to meet up with old friends for a cup of coffee or a microbrew.
Of course, if you are of an age, say in your 60s, it is even better. This place is made for those of us who consider ourselves aged hippies now living a retirement-focused, buttoned-down mindset.
In 1969, all of my friends planned on attending the Woodstock concert. My brother, Jim, and I each wanted to go, but we were both working at my Dad’s grocery store in Sidney at the time and the old man said only one of us could go. We flipped a coin for it.
Jim had a great time at the concert.
The Woodstock concert site is still there, maintained beautifully as a touchstone to the past for a whole generation. As you peer out from the viewing area, it is not hard to imagine an army of young people all bunched together in a sea of mud and patchy grass, row after row as far as the eye can see. The stage area is still there, and on a calm afternoon you can almost hear Jimi Hendrix whining away on his electric guitar or Richie Havens exhorting the masses to channel “freedom … freedom … freedom.”
Oh, and over there is the stream where hundreds shed their clothes and inhibitions and participated in the world’s largest skinny-dipping party. And off to one side, Max Yasgur’s old barn still chaperones this hallowed, venerable place and all who visit (or re-visit) here.
When my friend from Scotland came to America 18 years ago to live, I asked him where he wanted to go visiting first. Cameron unhesitatingly said, “Woodstock.” It is just that kind of a place.
In 1994, Woodstock 25 was held in Saugerties. My older sister Fran and I went, finally making our bid for the Woodstock experience. Five years later, my daughter, Katie, and I drove all the way to Rome, N.Y. to attend Woodstock 30.
Both were pale horsemen trying to catch the original Woodstock mystique, but I am glad that a D’Imperio has now attended each official Woodstock concert milestone.
I look back and wish I had been clever enough to come up with a compromise with my father more than 45 years ago.
Last week, as my wife and I strolled the streets of the little village, we went into a gift shop for some souvenirs for the kids. I am particularly proud of one item. It is a tie-dyed baby Woodstock “onesie” with a peace sign on it for my grandson, Connor, who will arrive any day now.
I am going to attach a little note to it and advise him that whenever the time comes around for his own “Woodstock moment,” to try and come up with some kind of a compromise with his own old man and just get into a car and go.
I know I wish I had.
I’ll catch you in two ...
“Big Chuck” D’IMPERIO can be heard on weekdays beginning at 6 a.m. on WDOS-AM 730 in Oneonta, and also on Thursday nights from 7 to 9 p.m. on WSRK-FM 103.9 for his “Oldies Jukebox Show.” You can find him on Facebook by searching “Big Chuck.” He invites you to contact him at email@example.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/bigchuck.