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WATKINS GLEN, NY — The Woodstock 50 event scheduled for Watkins Glen on August 16 was thrown into serious doubt after the Watkins Glen International speedway announced on June 10 it will no longer host the three-day fest in August. The speedway said it cancelled the event “pursuant to provisions of the contract.”
Shortly after the announcement, the New York State Department of Health told Billboard Magazine that the speedway intends to “rescind their application for a mass gathering permit for Woodstock 50.”
Despite a situation reflecting the uncertainty of the original Woodstock Festival in 1969, the organizers of the event say they will push on. “We are in discussions with another venue to host Woodstock 50 on August 16 to 18 and look forward to sharing the new location when tickets go on sale in the coming weeks,” said Gregory Peck, one of the organizers of Woodstock 50 LLC. Tickets may not go on sale until the organizers have secured a mass-gathering permit.
The organizers now will also be seeking a new producer for the concert. The first producer, Superfly, withdrew from the project once the Japanese advertising firm Dentsu withdrew its financial support from the concert in April.
Woodstock 50 then lined up CID Entertainment as producer, but that company also pulled out once it was clear that the location for the concert had been pulled.
“CID Entertainment had been engaged to provide enhanced camping, travel packages and transportation for Woodstock 50. Given developments, we can confirm that CID is no longer involved in Woodstock 50 in any capacity,” CID told Billboard in a statement.
Tim O’Hearn, administrator for Schuyler County, in which the speedway is located, said in a statement: “This comes as a major disappointment to us in that we looked forward to hosting this iconic event in our community. While today’s announcement is difficult to absorb, it is not completely unexpected, given the well-publicized delays related to this planned event. We commend Watkins Glen International for their actions, which we feel are in the overall best interest of the community.”
This development is just one in a number of hurdles facing the Woodstock 50 celebrations headed by original organizer Michael Lang. Woodstock 50 plans started to crumble in April when Dentsu announced the concert had been cancelled, alleging incompetence on the part of the team. Dentsu also withdrew $18 million in funding from an account it shared with Woodstock 50. Lang and the other organizers sued. The judge ruled that Dentsu did not have the right to unilaterally cancel the concert, but he did not order the company to return the funding to the account.
Lang noted that he’s been in this situation before. The original Woodstock concert was supposed to take place in Woodstock, NY, home to artists such as Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix, but local officials blocked it. Then Lang and his associates found a home in the Orange County Town of Walkill. But as Lang told the New York Times on May 1, “In 1969, we got kicked out of Wallkill a month before the festival was to happen.” The group then found the Town of Bethel.
With estimates of the expected crowd running from 65,000 to 150,000, it’s not clear that any upstate local officials will be welcoming to last-minute plans for the 50th anniversary of perhaps the most famous musical event in history.