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Rediscovering the Past

Rediscovering the Past
by Joanne Hague

Undoubtedly, if I were just a couple of years older in 1969, I would have found my way to Bethel. Woodstock, one of the greatest events of all times, was happening a mere 60 miles away from where I lived. I remember watching the news reports with my mom, and her being aghast at what we were seeing. But me, I wished I were there.

A few years later, I married. Had my children and Woodstock was never something that I thought about after those days. Until 1994. My children and I attended a festival in Bethel, when I realized exactly where I was. I made it! 25 years later. Standing at the marker, gazing at the breathtaking view – I was mesmerized. The magnificence of this peaceful setting brought back memories of those times past. As I walked on that field, I was overwhelmed by the sense of importance for what had happened there and a respect for what it represented. I found myself drawn back to visit often after that weekend and always grabbed a newspaper to see what was going on in the area. I soon was shocked to learn that this global icon – the place that I had come to love and visit – was going to be developed. I couldn’t understand why anyone would choose this piece of land to develop. It was beautiful. In the middle of nowhere, but literally found by thousands every year. I was disappointed, but honestly, what was I going to do about it? I’m not even a resident of New York.

In 2002, I got my computer and discovered what it was to “surf the net”. I stumbled across a group of people having the same objections as I, over the destruction of this land. They called themselves the Woodstock Preservation Alliance, and at that time, I remember they were circulating a petition. I in turn, printed out a page, and went out to fill it. From that I grew, and soon after became co-leader of that organization, and the efforts, which pursued the historic preservation of the original Woodstock site. For several years, we worked to make sure that the integrity of the original Woodstock site would remain untouched as it faced the development of Bethel Woods – Center for the Arts. There were only five of us, but we took our concerns all the way to the federal government. In retrospect, it’s hard to believe that we, as a few people, were able to accomplish what we did. All of us – 3 different generations, 2 different countries, and six different backgrounds. Ultimately, we were successful. We saw a ninety percent downsize of the original plans, and the Woodstock site was safe. That endeavor turned out to be a win-win situation for all.

More often than not, what was important yesterday is erased by tomorrow – and I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to have played an active role in the preservation efforts of this global landmark, and proud of the changes we were able to affect. My years of involvement in that project were filled with passion, privilege and enlightenment – and an experience I will never forget. I finally did make it to Woodstock, but in a way that no one else will ever have the chance to experience, and what I learned is that it is possible for an ordinary grandmother, in small town America, to make a difference.

So here we are… approaching 2009. I’m truly starting to believe that your memory starts getting little foggy after you reach fifty. Does anyone even remember Woodstock? There’s an old saying that states, “If you remember Woodstock, you weren’t there”, although that is something I’ve proven to be quite untrue. The 40th anniversary is right around the corner. Can you imagine? I have a hard time believing that my granddaughter is eight, let alone forty years passing by. Nothing like Woodstock will ever happen again. It’s been tried, time and time again, but the outcomes were disastrous. Was it the difference in people, the times, society, the music… who knows?

They say you can’t relive the past, but with the anniversary drawing near, I thought it just might be possible. Four years have passed since our preservation efforts, and since then, working on that project was always something that I really missed. I missed working with the people and I miss “Woodstock.” So, over the past few weeks, I decided to get back in touch with my partner, and aim for something different. Memories. Finding and documenting memories of Woodstock ‘69 to place in a book. I’m again involved. I’ve been compiling rare, if never before seen, personal photos from Woodstock 1969, and putting them together with recollections from concert-goers, locals, and anyone else that was in the area at that time, who has a story to tell. It’s like the icing on the cake. This time around, it’s fun and interesting instead of important and necessary. I’ve been talking with people from all parts of the country, each with their own perception and memory. If you’d be interested in talking with me and getting involved in this unique project, please contact me at: joann1108@aol.com. With this book, I hope to share the past, and for those who don’t remember – my hopes are that this collection will create a spark.

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