Photos: Stardust and golden; memories of Woodstock
Photographer and Montclair resident Todd Boressoff went to Woodstock in 1969. The rock festival has its 50th anniversary today through the 18th.
Boressoff writes: “On Thursday, Aug. 14, the day before the Woodstock Festival officially began, my then girlfriend and I drove my blue 1968 VW Bug up to Yasgur’s Farm in Bethel, New York. We were fortunate. Arriving a day early enabled us to come within a half mile of the stage. Even so it took us hours. The car, stocked with a cooler, bags of edibles and dry clothes, was a welcome refuge when the rains came.
“Over the three days of Woodstock, I didn’t take a single photograph of the performers. I focused on what it was like to be at this amazing event.”
Montclair's Mark S. Porter writes:
"Freedom and Dependence
My mother stood on the back porch of my grandmother's farmhouse in Fairport, NY, demanding that I come back as I cheerfully waved goodbye, with nothing but a little knapsack dangling on my side. Inside the sack: a 3-day ticket for the Woodstock Music Festival.
At age 16, I was hitchhiking perhaps 200 miles across New York State to reach the town of Bethel, near the festival's site.
Festival-goers recall the music, the counter-culture camaraderie, the huge grassy slope of Yasgur's Farm that a rainstorm transformed into a morass of mud, and the marijuana-enhanced sense of freedom for hundreds of thousands of young people.
I experienced freedom in hitching solo through the farm country of Central New York, where cornfields stretched to the horizon under a brilliant blue sky. Pickup truck drivers would take me so far, and at rural intersections apologetically drop me off, and someone else would soon stop and offer me a lift in the direction of Bethel. As a youth who'd never hitchhiked more than a couple miles from my mom's apartment on Valley Road to northern Montclair, I was enthralled by my solitary adventure, and grateful to the drivers who provided me with rides. Without their kindness, I'd have been trudging along Route 96.
After arriving on Wednesday afternoon, I realized that the Woodstock organizers had failed to complete the fence around the locale, and my expensive tickets — expensive for a 16-year-old in 1969 — were unneeded.
Alone and shy, I paid for my initial meals at festival food-stalls. In the days ahead, I connected with encampments of communes in the nearby woods. Hog Farm members gently offered bowls of legumes and rice noodles to vast numbers of hungry attendees, many of whom, such as me, had little cash. The hippie commune members' benevolence made many of us aware of our dependence on one another. Freedom is more appreciated on a full stomach.
I've never seen myself in Woodstock images or videos. Overcoming my awkwardness, I swam naked in Max Yasgur's pond. I sat in different spots on the packed hillside for the three days and nights of music and patter. I stood along the right-hand area of the fence separating attendees from the stage, agog as Jimi Hendrix performed his stunning finale.
I was one bobbing head amid all of the other festival-goers, enraptured by this life-changing event that we now reflect on a half-century later."
Another reader shared his memories of Woodstock, too. Terry writes:
“Yes, I was at Woodstock… I was scheduled to be drafted the Monday after Woodstock.. so my head was simultaneously in Bethel and Vietnam... a unique experience.
“Thanks to my sister Patti, we even had tickets… I went for the music and became totally immersed in the culture of the people attending the event.. I was an emerging free spirit… a reporter for the Paterson Evening News… the music was this incredible backdrop to 500,000 people joyously struggling to live together… the announcements were some of my favorite parts of the weekend… I remember so vividly when the concert was declared free… I had friends there… we had plans to hook up at the message board… never did...
“I wandered… spent time in the makeshift hospital tent talking people down from bad acid trips and visited as many “tribes” of people as I could during the weekend...
THE EXPERIENCE was transformative...
On Monday I was in Newark getting rejected by the Army… and starting my post Woodstock life.”