Monday, August 18, 2014

July 2014: Getting In Touch With My Inner Hippie: Woodstock Baybee!

Rachel and me at the Woodstock Museum

Not all travel has to involve hiking.

I spent three weeks in or near the Catskill Mountains in New York at Cobalt Studios, a school for scenic artists.  I had wanted to attend Cobalt for about 25 years.  Finally, because of a faculty leave (which I'll call a sabbatical from here on) I was able to attend the Summer Scene Painting Training Seminar.  The people who run Cobalt are among the best at what they do in the country, maybe the world.  They are top flight scenic artists.

What is really cool about the Cobalt experience is that they have codified the training of scenic artists.  I'll get to that in another blog post on another blog.  This one is about travel not training.

It just so happens that Cobalt Studios is eleven miles away from the site of the Woodstock concert in 1969. An entrepreneur purchased the farm and created a museum about the experience.  Some people would call it a museum, others may think of it as more of a shrine.  At Cobalt, we only painted from Monday to Friday. We had the weekends to ourselves.  So for my first free time at Cobalt, I went to the museum at Woodstock.  It just so happens I love the music of the 60's and the Woodstock Generation.  I know all of it by heart.  I needed to get in touch with my inner hippie.

It's kind of funny, but Woodstock didn't actually occur in Woodstock, New York.  It was supposed to but the guy who owned the land set aside for the concert backed out of the deal a few weeks before the gig. He was supposedly getting the wrong kind of pressure from the neighbors and politicians about hosting the event.  At the last minute, the concert promoters found a new venue on a farm in Bethel, New York.  All the print had already been printed so the name stuck.  Interesting trivia, there.

Today, the actual site of the concert where half a million kids came to enjoy three days of peace and music is still pristine.  It was a field set in a natural bowl.  There's a pile of rocks where the stage was set up. Overlooking the venue is a monument that is cast in concrete and garishly painted as we would expect a monument to Woodstock to be.

The hill where half a million kids and dozens of great musicians hung out in 1969

The rockpile here is where the stage was

I was at Woodstock Baybee!

The monument

With me added

The backstage area.  Directly across the street from this fence was the staging area for upcoming acts

The dude who bought the property decided to erect a museum honoring the event.  Some people thought it was a crime or a sin to despoil this shrine with a commercial museum.  They aren't the ones paying the bills. The museum is perched atop the hill, still on the property but not on the location of the actual concert.  On a different part of the farm, he erected a pavilion where he still brings in music acts.  Kenny Rogers played there while I was there, but I declined to go to his show.  Not a fan of country music.

The main floor of the museum started out with interpretive materials describing the tumult that was the 60's. There was Vietnam, Civil Rights, political assassinations, men walking on the moon, the cold war, etc...  That set the stage for the exhibits for the concert, or "Three days of peace and music."

There was an actual bus, painted in psychedelic colors that had been at the event.  There was a VW Bug painted with hippie symbols as well.  The bus was open and had become a movie theatre.  The film was projected on screens that were cut to fit the front windows of the bus.  It was pretty cool.

There were a couple of movie theaters in the museum.  One of them had bean bags on the floor and the screens were all around including the ceiling so it was an immersive experience.  Another one was a sit down theater where we got to listen to some of the actual performances.  Very cool.

After a jaunt to the gift store, we went downstairs for an exhibit of photos from the Fab Four's first trip to America.  There were other artifacts from the Beatles there as well.  My opinion is that even though the museum is quite small, it covers just the right amount of information about the event.  I'd definitely recommend this to any of my inner hippie friends.  Great time.

Hippie flag at Woodstock

Where Rock and Roll came from

This jacket was worn at Woodstock.  The hippies loved their country but were
afraid of it's government.  Hmmm, that sounds like a bumper sticker I saw once.

Real hippie bus

Pay not attention to the man behind the window

Hippie Beetle


and more

Security wore these jackets and shirts.  The security were off duty police officers
from New York City.

Since we were near Orange County, New York it was appropriate to have one of their choppers there on the site.

The Beatles exhibit

Suit actually worn by Sir Paul McCartney.  He wasn't a big man.

Sergeant Peppers dolls


more signage

The pavilion, or one of them

The museum

I truly enjoyed my time at the museum.  Our host was very gracious and allowed us to take our time in the museum, not to rush the experience.  Shrine or not, I give this 5 thumbs up.  That means I have to borrow some thumbs...

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