On this day in 1969, the Woodstock Music Festival kicked off on a patch of farmland in Bethel, New York. Today, the festival is fondly remembered as a symbol of 1960s counterculture. See how much you know about the festival with these five interesting facts…
Over 400,000 People Were in Attendance. The promoters originally expected around 50,000 attendees. That number then swelled to 200,000. But when the gates opened on August 15, 1969, over 400,000 people had made the pilgrimage to the small town of Bethel, NY about 50 miles from the festival's namesake, Woodstock, NY. There were so many people that festival organizers ran out of food on the first day. Attendees ate sandwiches provided by volunteers and some resorted to drinking milk straight from cows. Surprisingly, however, there were no reports of violence and only a few drug-related arrests throughout the three-day event.
There Were Rumors of a Beatles Performance. Despite the fact that The Beatles were well on their way to breaking up by the time the festival took place in 1969, rumors persisted that John, George, Paul, and Ringo might hit the stage at Woodstock. Of course, that did not happen and there are several rumors as to why. One prevailing theory is that John had visa issues that wouldn't allow him to make the concert, but there's also a rumor that the band walked away when Yoko Ono's group was denied an invitation to perform.
Only a Fraction of Attendees Saw Jimi Hendrix's Iconic Star-Spangled Banner Performance. Today, when people think "Woodstock," they think of two things: hippies in the mud and Jimi Hendrix playing the coolest rendition of our National Anthem ever. But when Hendrix hit the stage to perform on Monday morning (the last day of the festival) at 9 AM, a large majority of festival attendees had already hit the road in hopes of beating the grueling traffic. Only about 25,000 attendees remained by the time Hendrix performed.
The Festival Promoters Went Millions of Dollars into Debt Putting on the Show. Four men in their early to mid-twenties with no experience in concert promoting were responsible for organizing and putting on the biggest rock festival in history. Despite booking an incredible lineup, they had no idea what they were getting themselves into. Big acts like The Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin demanded their fees get paid before taking the stage and soon, the four men were deep in the financial hole. One of the organizers used his trust fund as leverage to get the local bank to open on a Saturday and give them a loan to pay performers. Despite losing millions on the festival, the group made it all back (and more) through exclusive rights to the concert footage released in a 1970 film.
It's Not Likely That Any Babies Were Born at Woodstock. One of the prevailing legends of the three-day fest in 1969 was that several women gave birth at the festival. Singer-songwriter John Sebastian even announced from the stage that a woman had just given birth. And while those kids would probably have grown up to be the coolest people ever, no medical records match up to support the stories of childbirth at Woodstock. Sadly, it sounds like just a story—not a fact.