Woodstock 1969 Festival Almost Came to the Town of Wallkill
Before Max Yasgur invited the organizers of the Woodstock Music Festival to set up at his 600 acre dairy farm in Bethel, New York, the organizers had their sights set on another area of the Hudson Valley. That area was the Mills Industrial Park in the Town of Wallkill.
After organizers' attempts to put the festival in the Town of Woodstock and then the village of Saugerties failed, they approached officials at the Town of Wallkill in Orange County with their idea. They were able to secure a deal to lease the property for $10,000 in the Spring of 1969. Officials of the Town of Wallkill were told to expect no more than 50,000 people. Residents of the town were not too happy and opposed the event. According to the book "Taking Woodstock: A True Story of a Riot, a Concert, and a Life" by Eliot Tiber who was the president of the Bethel Chamber of Commerce back then, the Town Board passed a law requiring a permit for any gathering over 5,000 people. And on July 15, 1969, the Wallkill Zoning Board of Appeals officially banned the concert on the basis that the planned portable toilets would not meet town code.
The promoters were then introduced by Tiber to dairy farmer Max Yasgur, who had a 600-acre dairy farm in Sullivan County. Organizers once again told a town board, this time Bethel's Town Board, that no more than 50,000 people were expected to attend. According to an article by New York Times columnist Richard F. Shepard published July 23, 1969, the residents of Bethel were very displeased and voiced opposition. Bethel Town Attorney Frederick W. V. Schadt and building inspector Donald Clark approved the permits, but the Bethel Town Board refused to issue them formally. Clark was ordered to post stop-work orders. But the festival went on as scheduled, and because of the short turnaround, the organizers did not have time to prepare, and since more than 50,000 people came to attend, the weekend festival became a free festival and the legend of Woodstock was born.
This Sunday August 16, join 101.5 WPDH as we celebrate the 46th anniversary of Woodstock with a special edition of "The WPDH Soundcheck" at 10PM. We'll have live performances as it happened in 1969 plus commentary from those who attended and those who lived around the area, plus an introduction from the late Walter Kronkite.