The Guy Who Hosted Woodstock Was As Far From A Hippie As You Can Get
Today marks the anniversary of the end of Woodstock, 1969's four days of music and mud. The historic music festival wasn't actually the spontaneous expression of free love people say it was. It was organized by New York City businessmen and investors, who made a lot of money off it. But we'd like right now to focus on one behind-the-scenes guy: Max Yasgur, who owned the site.
Max Yasgur was a 49-year-old dairy farmer. He was a Republican who supported the Vietnam War. He was the opposite of anyone who attended Woodstock, and the organizers kind of duped him into hosting it.
The man needed money because it had been a bad season for making hay. The organizers paid him $50,000 to use his grounds, telling him 50,000 people would attend. The actual number of people who showed up was more like 400,000. Inevitably, the oversize crowds trashed his land—as well as the surrounding land, and Yasgur ended up needing help to fend off lawsuits from angry neighbors.
But all that didn't mean he opposed the festival. "If the generation gap is to be closed, we older people have to do more than we have done," he said. He sold food at cost. And when he learned neighbors were selling water for huge prices, he hung a banner on his barn reading "FREE WATER" ... then also had his family fill every milk bottle in the dairy farm with water and distribute those for free to those who couldn't reach the barn.
Yasgur got a speaking slot on stage (some sources say it was right before Jimi Hendrix’s famous performance). "I'm a farmer," he said, to cheers. "I don't know how to speak to 20 people at one time, let alone a crowd like this." He marveled at the crowd size, rambled a little about logistics, then said, "You've proven to the world is that a half a million kids ... can get together and have three days of fun and music and have nothing but fun and music, and I—God bless you for it!"
He even flashed a peace sign. Though, we should mention, that gesture was also popular among Vietnam War supporters, and to them, it didn't mean "peace." It meant "victory."
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Top image: Political Outsider/YouTube