The 50th Anniversary of the Woodstock Festival
The Woodstock Music and Art Fair crystallized the spirit of the 1960s: it’s a wonderful thing to get together and be ourselves, unafraid and free. We may still be fine-tuning the details, but the basic idea rings as true as Jimi’s guitar. And this year, to celebrate the Golden Anniversary of the convergence of about half a million young folks in our own bucolic Sullivan County, Bethel Woods Center for the Arts has laid out a season packed with reflections of the past and inspiration for the future.
This year, to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Woodstock Festival, the convergence of about half a million young folks in our own bucolic Sullivan County, the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts has laid out a season packed with reflections of the past and inspiration for the future.
Dedicated to fostering “a sense of community rooted in personal expression, kindness, and civility,” Bethel Woods is a beautiful place to visit anytime, whether to explore artistic expression through exhibits at The Museum, see performances by some of the best musicians of our time (this summer’s lineup includes Dave Matthews, Chris Stapleton, and Shinedown, to name a few), or to encounter deep, thoughtful learning experiences for all ages. Visitors from all over come together not only for events and exhibits, but also to explore and contemplate while walking what many consider sacred ground, feeling the potent sense of history that’s drawn so many pilgrims through the years, even when there was nothing there to welcome them but the field itself.
This year, Bethel Woods is taking a deep dive into the significance and meaning of the Woodstock festival. What happened? What changed? What did the hippies really want? Where did the dream lead, and what’s the way forward? How do we tune in and turn on our kindest and most civil selves?
A pair of special exhibits opening March 30 will shed some light on these questions. “We Are Golden: Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of the Woodstock Festival and Aspirations for a Peaceful Future” examines what the youth of 1969 wanted for the world. This exhibit puts the festival in the context of its legacy of purpose-driven festivals, concerts, gatherings, and movements, from The Concert for Bangladesh and Earth Day, to #metoo and student gun control activism. The exhibit is intended to elicit a reaction from today’s youth: Where to now, folks? Meanwhile, The Crossroads Gallery will host “We Are Stardust,” putting the Apollo 11 lunar landing of July 1969 into cultural context, looking at the Cold War, the Space Race, NASA’s program, “moon mania,” and the eventual success of landing on the moon.
The weekend of May 17–19 will be Lunar Weekend, a celebration of the evolution, tenacity, and legacy of the human spirit with films, hands-on activities, speakers, and “out-of-this-world fun” that includes a star-gazing sleepover. The weekend will include a presentation of Grammy-winning composer Eric Whitacre’s “Deep Field,” a new piece of music set to never-before-seen images taken by the Hubble Telescope.
Visitors from all over come together not only for events and exhibits, but also to explore and contemplate while walking what many consider sacred ground, feeling the potent sense of history that’s drawn so many pilgrims through the years, even when there was nothing there to welcome them but the field itself.
The following weekend, on May 25, come watch the Warner Bros. Academy Award-winning documentary Woodstock: The Director’s Cut right on the historic festival field. Surely, this is the closest anybody who missed the concert can ever come to being there, and it will be a huge nostalgia fix for anyone who was.
Outdoors, the Bindy Bazaar Trails, which connected the two major areas of the festival and hosted a string of 20 vendors in 1969, have been lovingly restored and will be walkable again.
“Vibrations” events will celebrate the era’s lasting power and possibilities. “Peace, Love & Posters,” a national poster design contest commemorating the iconic guitar and dove image, will visually explore kindness, community, and aspirations for the next fifty years. Power of the Poster on June 5 will present the winning design of the contest, which will serve as the face of Bethel Woods during the Golden Anniversary year.
On July 25, come for a premiere screening of PBS’s American Experience: Woodstock, followed by a talk with Emmy Award-winning and Oscar- nominated director Barak Goodman.
The weekend of August 31–September 1 provides an opportunity to celebrate the earth, learn ways to promote sustainability in daily life, and get some guided mindfulness and wellness at the two-day “Mind, Body, Earth” festival. As September unfolds, the Center will be hosting “Songs for Change,” a Youth Leadership Day, and “Framing History,” an examination of the role of photography in shaping our shared perceptions.
So what have we learned since 1969? On October 19, a panel of authors, historians, and change-makers will convene to discuss “Sixties @ 50,” an examination of the social movements rooted in that tumultuous decade and how they’ve progressed.
These are just some of the highlights of what’s in store for visitors this year—there is so much more to explore and experience at the Bethel Woods. Be sure to visit the website at bethelwoodscenter.org for more information. As the 50th anniversary of that iconic festival approaches, we invite you to come, enjoy, and celebrate the timeless power of kindness, civility, peace, love, and music; you’ll go home more empowered than ever to sprinkle that stuff everywhere.
Bethel Woods Center for the Arts
200 Hurd Road, Bethel