Woodstock – Then & Now, 1969 – 2019!

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By Carolyn Bower

Woodstock! That word brings back memories of 1969 and the multi-day music festival held at Max Yasgur’s farm near White Lake in Bethel, New York. The legendary event featured 32 acts, including Jimi Hendrix,  Janis Joplin, Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, Carlos Santana, Creedence Clearwater Revival among many others.

Now, 50 years later, a Golden Anniversary Celebration at the historic site will be held August 16-18, 2019. This multi-generational cultural event will include live music, TED-style talks and special exhibits.

Many music fans are familiar with Woodstock but may not be aware the festival site has become much more than just a part of rock history.

In 1996, long time N.Y. resident and billionaire Alan Gerry created a Foundation with intentions to improve and revitalize the area. The Foundation purchased the original 37 acre festival field and hundreds of acres surrounding it, with plans for an arts center. The Bethel Woods Center for the Arts became a reality and includes a 7,500 sq.ft. main stage called the Pavilion, with 4,500 covered seats and a sloping lawn for 10,500 people. The outdoor Terrace Stage has space for 1,000 and the Woodstock Festival Field can accommodate 30,000. The Center also features classrooms, a 440 seat indoor Event Gallery and 132 seat Museum Theater. The 1968 Theater has news and special effects from that time, including a chance to sit in the Magic Bus, surrounded by huge floor-to-ceiling screens.

The museum opened in 2008 and explores the experience of Woodstock and the Sixties. Exhibits and artifacts envelop the museum, which is located in a LEED certified green building. Also in the building are the Gallery, Shop, and the Muse Café, which offers both indoor and outdoor seating.

The Center offers Museum Education and Creative Programs through agreements with local professional artists. The 12 month Artist-in-Residence program provides opportunities for artists to interact with audiences of all ages.

In 2012, Bethel Woods moved from the Gerry Foundation to its own 501(c)(3) public charity governed by an independent board of trustees.  A Conservatory, separate from the museum, opened in 2013 to include the planned development of youth/teen educational and outreach programs.

Bethel Woods, 90 minutes from New York City, schedules concerts in a wide range of music genres from June – September. These concerts are not just for baby boomers who remember the 1960’s and Woodstock. There is a special “Family Zone” area on the general admission lawn for most events.  It’s free of alcoholic beverages, smoking, inappropriate language and offers an enjoyable atmosphere for all ages.

1969’s Woodstock revives memories of great music, peace symbols, and cultural issues. 50 years later, the sights and sounds remain alive at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, co-existing with new musical genres and artistic and creative programs.

The Golden Anniversary Celebration in August 2019 will offer remembrances of the past, sounds of the present and innovative plans for the future.  More information on concerts, (yet-to-be-named) performers, programs and museum events can be found at the Bethel Woods Center website @ https://www.bethelwoodscenter.org/

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