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BETHEL, NY — In August of 1969, Long Islander Bill Galante was 20 years old and working as an artist at a surfboard shop.
He had recently come into possession of a 1964 Dodge Dart station wagon—making him a valuable asset to his friends who wanted to hitch a ride to the music festival happening two-and-a-half hours away. A friend of his had two press passes and a press sticker for the car, so the pair, along with about seven other people, headed to Bethel for the weekend.
“I didn’t bring any food and all I had were the clothes on my back,” Galante recalled. “I don’t even know if I had any money in my pocket.”
Galante stayed for three days and two nights at the festival, some of it spent stark naked. Galante will be returning to the area this weekend as a guest tattoo artist at Janet’s Kozmic Groovy Shop in Bethel, offering tattoos—Woodstock related or not. He’s one of many original Woodstock attendees who will return to the site this anniversary weekend.
“Things are always bigger in your memory,” Galante said about previous visits to the Woodstock site. “Now I’m looking at the same place all these years later and saying, ‘No this can’t be it, it was much bigger.’”
On his first visit back to the site, Galante saw a specific tree near a crossroads and was pulled back to ‘69. Some of the memories Galante wracks through include airing his wet clothes out using a fan on the back of a Chinese food take-out truck. “I walked around smelling like an egg roll,” he said, laughing. He remembers leaving his car near a Ferris wheel, though he hasn’t been able to corroborate the existence of such a thing with anyone else. Many of Galante’s memories are food related: eating a stale peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, trading a joint for an apple, trying crunchy granola from the Hog Farm for the first time (paired with a hash hit for a hellish dry-mouth experience) and finding a blackberry bush. “I did a very unhip, kind of un-cool thing and I kept it to myself,” he said.
He remembers people jumping on his car as he drove in, weighing the station wagon down so the bottom was scraping the ground, and standing knee deep in mud to see Jimi Hendrix at the close of the festival. He remembers “showering” in the rain with a bar of ivory soap and swimming in the lake. And, he remembers the masses of people.
“When I stop to think about it now, there was no way you could pay me to do that,” Galante said. “I kind of enjoy things from the periphery these days.”
Find Galante this weekend at Janet’s Kozmic Groovy Shop, 1028 State Route 17B Mongaup Valley, open 1 to 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday.