Crews set up the stage at Woodstock 1969
This article originally appeared in the July 23, 1969 issue of the Boston Phoenix
Can a Pop Festival, in its first year, find happiness and success as a "three-day festival of peace and music"? Can the Woodstock Music and Art Fair present "An Aquarian Exposition" in Wallkill, N.Y. August 15-17 and avoid the riots and near-riots which have plagued the Newport (California and Rhode Island) Festivals, and which caused the town of Newport, R.I. to cancel the premiere of Blind Faith? Can Woodstock Ventures, Inc. "do something right"?
Hopes are high among the quartet of rock entrepreneurs – John Roberts, Joel Roseman, Michael Land, and Arnie Kornfeld – who think they can succeed where George Wein, Newport promoter, has not.
"Sure, we're worried, because you always worry when there are that many people," says sales representative Salvatore Scaltro. The festival has collected $225,000 in ticket subscriptions so far: "no festival has ever done the advance sale this one has," says Mr. Scaltro. There will be an anticipated crowd of 100,000 fans per night. (Brochures are available by writing Box 966, Radio City Station, New York. Tickets are on sale in Boston at Krackerjacks, Headquarters, Freaque, Boutique.
The problem of handling overflow crowds is one that has seriously plagued the Newport Festivals. Woodstock Ventures hopes to correct some of the tension-making situations in advance. Space will be available – and easily accessible. The festival promoters have appropriated 60 acres of land in Wallkill (6 miles from Middletown, N.Y.).
The site was moved from Woodstock in consideration of city ordinances. There will be approximately 12 gates where tickets will be sold, but the crush at the gate to get in to the concert will be eliminated by transporting people from the parking lot to the music site via a fleet of 120 buses.
"Everything we'll need is on the grounds," according to Mr. Scaltro. About 200 acres have been allocated for camping sites, and some area hotels and motels have agreed to welcome the crowd. At the festival site electricity and sanitary facilities will be provided, and there will be concessions selling everything from food to clothing to camping equipment. There will even be an information and service booth to accommodate people with problems and complaints.
To facilitate the performances, experts have been working for the past three weeks to perfect the sound system that will carry sound reasonably but audibly over the hill area where the stage will be raised. There will be no seats, with space on the grass available on a first-come basis. The stage itself will be on an incline, enabling all to see as well as hear, according to Mr. Scaltro.
A private security force of 350 off-duty police will be employed by Woodstock Ventures, who have been working with the governor's office in adopting recommended security measures. To insure the actual accomplishment of the idyllic festival the Woodstock boys have in mind is no easy matter – the wilder groups (such as the Doors) were not invited: "We want the kids involved in the music," not be incited to violence by the pandemonium.
In "trying to keep in as close contact as possible with the people," Mr. Scaltro sees Woodstock Ventures as planning a festival "not for a festival's sake" but for the creation of a happy, music-filled weekend. Good luck!
Luck threw the Woodstock boys a curve last week in the form of protest from the Wallkill town fathers. But, Woodstock Ventures issued a statement assuring rock fans that the Festival will indeed be held. A statement from the organization follows:
John Roberts, president of Woodstock Ventures, stated categorically today that the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, to be held in the town of Wallkill, N.Y. will go on, as scheduled, Aug. 15-17.
Roberts noted, "Statements to the contrary that have been made by the Wallkill Town Zoning Board of Appeals, Assistant Town Attorney Joseph Owen, and other individuals, are entirely false. Accordingly, we have instructed legal counsel in New York City and in Wallkill to institute damage proceedings and to provide relief from this offensive and dishonest harassment. Never in the history of an outdoor event of this kind have such massive and thorough preparations been made for the security and well-being of everyone in attendance.
"The staff we have assembled is composed of nationally recognized experts in safety, security, sanitation, and parking. Wes Pomeroy, chief of security for Woodstock Ventures, was associate administrator of the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, U.S. Dept. of Justice, and director of the office of Law Enforcement Programs until June, 1969. Prior to that he was a special assistant to the Attorney General of the U.S. for Law Enforcement. He was in the office of the Sheriff of San Mateo County, California, for 16 years (8 of them as Under-Sheriff). In that capacity he planned, organized, and directed outside policing and internal security for the 1964 Republican Convention at the Cow Palace.