On August 15, 1969, the Woodstock Music Festival opened on a plot of farmland in White Lake, a hamlet in the town of Bethel, upstate New York.
Promoters John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, Artie Kornfield and Michael Lang initially envisioned the festival as a way to raise funds to build a recording studio and rock and roll retreat near the town of Woodstock, New York. The colony of longtime artists was already a base for Bob Dylan and other musicians. Despite their relative inexperience, the young promoters have managed to sign a roster of leading players including the Jefferson Airplane, the Who, the Grateful Dead, Sly and the Family Stone, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Creedence Clearwater Revival and many others.
Plans for the festival were on the verge of collapse, however, after Woodstock and the nearby town of Wallkill refused permission to host the event. Dairy farmer Max Yasgur came to the rescue at the last minute, giving developers access to his 600 acres of land in Bethel, about 50 miles from Woodstock.
READ MORE: 5 reasons why Woodstock ’69 became legendary
Initial estimates of attendance fell from 50,000 to around 200,000, but by the time the doors opened on Friday, August 15, more than 400,000 people were clamoring to enter. Those without tickets simply walked through the fence holes, and the organizers were eventually forced to make the event free. Folk singer and guitarist Richie Havens kicked off the event with a long set, and Joan Baez and Arlo Guthrie also performed on Friday night.
Although Woodstock left its promoters nearly bankrupt, their ownership of the film and recording rights more than made up for the losses after the release of a blockbuster documentary film in 1970. The festival still represents for many an example of the 1960s American youth counterculture at its best.
READ MORE: Legendary 1969 festival Woodstock was a miserable pit of mud too