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2019: The year of Bethel Woods

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BETHEL, NY — It’s been nearly 50 years since half a million people descended on Max Yasgur’s farm in the Town of Bethel for the Woodstock Music Festival, billed as three days of peace and music.

As every tenth person on the planet probably knows, it was called the Woodstock Festival because the organizers intended to hold it in Woodstock, NY, some 60 miles northeast of Bethel. But officials in Woodstock were a bit more cautious than officials in Bethel, and the Woodstock arrangement fell through. Officials from the Town of Bethel allowed the concert to go forward, the invasion began and the most famous musical event in the history of humankind unfolded over the next four days.

It took a few decades before the residents of the town and the surrounding county became comfortable with the Woodstock legacy. Many vowed “never again,” because of the clogged roads, the drugs and the explosion of humanity in the tiny, rural hamlet. But now, 50 years on, with the grounds comfortably contained within the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts (BWCA), just about everybody considers Bethel Woods to be one of the gems of the county.

A couple of days in advance of the new year, BWCA announced that it will hold a special three-day event this summer. “Together with Live Nation Concerts and INVNT we are joining forces to produce Bethel Woods Music and Culture Festival: Celebrating the golden anniversary at the historic site of the 1969 Woodstock festival,” the venue’s website reads. “This pan-generational cultural event will feature live music, TED-style talks and special exhibits.

The festival will be held August 16 to 18 and will include live performances from “prominent and emerging artists spanning multiple genres and decades, and TED-style talks from leading futurists and retro-tech experts,” according to Bethel Woods. Festival goers will also be able to visit the Museum at Bethel Woods, which tells the story of the 1960s through immersive media, interactive engagements and artifacts from the 1969 festival, as well as experience the special 2019 exhibit, “We Are Golden: Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of the Woodstock Festival and Aspirations for an Aquarian Future.”

The state is helping out with the celebration in the form of grants. The Regional Economic Development Awards (REDA) were announced on December 18, and BWCA will be getting roughly $200,000. According to the REDA booklet the money will be used to “develop destination camping to expand its capacity to accommodate current and new audiences; increase economic activity; encourage multi-day festival events and improve access to its arts and heritage tourism venue.”

The Sullivan County Visitors Association (SCVA) will also receive funding in connection with the Woodstock anniversary, in the form of a grant for $103,862. The REDA booklet says it will fund a “marketing project that will link the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock Festival to Mid-Hudson and Catskill Regional tourism experiences.”

Bethel Woods will be releasing more information about the three-day event soon.

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