The Man Who Never Left Woodstock
If you’ve been to concerts at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, chances are you’ve seen Duke Devlin. He’s the big guy with the long white hair and beard. You’ll know him… he looks right at home and people love to take selfies with him. Why is this man so popular? Because he’s basically been there since the Woodstock Music and Art Festival in 1969.
That man’s name is Duke Devlin, and his story is fascinating. Back in 1969 Duke was living in Texas when a friend of his asked him to head east for a hitchhiking road trip. The Woodstock concert was not their destination. Not at that point, anyway. The plan was to head to Pennsylvania to meet a girlfriend of Duke’s friend. They hitched to Pennsylvania, but the girl was gone. They kept hearing about this awesome festival that was happening in Sullivan County, so they headed for the show, but Duke swore he wasn’t staying for long. Duke and his buddy made it to Bethel, but got separated at Hurd Road. And they haven’t seen each other since.
Duke only had 50 cents to his name when he got to the show but he got work at the concert making hot dogs and hamburgers. Then he helped clean up the grounds. But he still didn’t leave. He met a girl, got married, got a job as Head Custodian at BOCES, where he worked for almost 30 years, opened his own farm market and made a great life for himself right here in Sullivan County.
When Bethel Woods Center for the Arts opened, Duke was asked to be the official Bethel Woods Site Interpreter. His job was to sit by the monument and tell stories about the 1969 concert. And he did it well. A concert wasn't complete without a stop to say hi to Duke.
Duke retired a couple of years ago, but he will always be a part of the venue to me. In fact, I think they should erect a Duke Devlin statue. Duke embodies the spirit of Woodstock, the music, and music loving hippies and non-hippies everywhere. Anybody with me?