Friday, August 14, 2009

Woodstock vs. Wallkill: A 40th Anniversary Look Back

Recently it was relayed to me the rumor that the Woodstock Music & Art Fair was originally planned to happen in my old hometown of Wallkill, NY, across the street from the middle school. Unfortunately, the tiny hamlet was even tinier back in 1969, and consisted predominantly of God-fearing farm people who had no desire to see their town overrun by a bunch of hippie freaks from Long Island and the Boroughs. The plan to set up shop on the legendary Borden Farm off Route 208 was quickly nixed by the Town Board and Michael Lang and co. quickly relocated to Yasgur's Farm.

I think it would have been so sick if Woodstock had actually gone down in Wallkill. Even in 2009, that town is as square as a toy block and in desperate need of a serious dose of cool, know what I mean?

I can picture it now: Hippies squatting on the steps of my old school, acid-tripping denizens stopping by Dolan's Market for beer, Jimi Hendrix trying to hook up with one of my friends' moms that Monday morning after his immortal set...

But alas, the town is more about football and farming than "An Aquarian Exposition", even though it seemed to get a little hipper after our class became seniors and introduced the young, naive masses to 40s, blunts and raves.

Sadly enough, the closest Wallkill has ever come to a major music festival is the high school's yearly talent show, which seems to get wacker and wacker every year from what I understand.

Nevertheless, the idea that we were this close to being ground zero for one of the greatest events in rock history is definitely something to brag about. And the only proof of this fact seems to be the poster (seen above) created in haste and then reconfigured after Wallkill shut down the idea of holding the concert there, thus causing the designers to create the now-iconic dove-on-the-guitar-neck logo.

No matter then, as me and my friends have had Aquarian Expositions several times over on that very same farmland many, many times in our youth, thus validating the nature of this small slice of failed history.

Unfortunately, as it was recently confirmed, the rumor was just that, a rumor. Those of us who grew up in our area know there are TWO Wallkills: the little hamlet also known as Shawangunk and the Town of Wallkill, which is closer to Middletown. Turns out Borden Farm wasn't even an option. The thing was actually supposed to go down on
the 300-acre (1.2 km2) Mills Industrial Park in the Town of Wallkill, which Woodstock Ventures had leased for $100,000 in the Spring of 1969.

The rest of this info comes from Wikipedia, so take it with a grain of salt:

Town officials were assured that no more than 50,000 would attend. Town residents immediately opposed the project. In early July the Town Board passed a law requiring a permit for any gathering over 5,000 people. On July 15, 1969 the Wallkill Zoning Board of Appeals officially banned the concert on the basis that the planned portable toilets would not meet town code.
Following the ban, Elliot Tiber, who owned the 80-room El Monaco Motel on White Lake in Bethel, New York offered to host the event on his 15 acres (61,000 m2). He already had a permit for a White Lake Music and Arts Festival from the Town of Bethel, which was to be a chamber music concert. When it was clear the site was too small, Tiber introduced the promoters to dairy farmer, Max Yasgur, initially on the premise that Yasgur's land would rent for $50 for a festival attracting 5,000. On July 20, 1969, Yasgur, meeting with the organizers at a White Lake restaurant called The Lighthouse, agreed to rent 600 acres (2.4 km2) for $75,000."

But while it would have been cool to think that this historical event could have happened in the same place I used to get my ass kicked in dodgeball every week, the fact that Woodstock happened anywhere in the vicinity of the Hudson Valley is good enough for me, ya dig? -Ed.

Jorma Kaukonen melting faces on Sunday morning, August 1969:


Brendan said...

Sorry to break this to you Ron, but sadly enough, the "Hamlet" of Wallkill wasn't even cool enough to reject the original Woodstock site. Although everything else in your article is spot on, the original site was planned for the Town of Wallkill -- that place outside of Middletown, that the Times Herald Record adoringly refers too, whenever it gets the chance. The site was the "Mills Industrial Park", which I believe is where a huge housing complex is located (a couple of miles away from the Galleria at Crystal, er, Run). Anyway, I was excited for a minute too. It would have been cool if I grew up a hippie, rather than a football loving, 8-ball drinking goonie. Peace brotha!

Brendan said...

oops...dumbass me. I just realized your clarification. Sorry Ms. Green for not proof-reading.Bwahahaha