The 50th anniversary of 1969’s legendary Woodstock festival is a little over a month away, but a venue has still not been secured.
Last month, organizers lost their original venue in Watkins Glen after failing to make a final payment.The Poughkeepsie Journal reported that the festival applied for a permit to hold the event at Vernon Downs, a venue in Oneida County that operates a racing, hotel, and harness horse racing track. This new venue would hold a smaller capacity at 50,000 to 65,000 people – a stark difference from the original six figure number of attendees originally proposed – and camping would not be permitted on-site.
While no formal announcement has been made regarding Vernon Downs, WKTV reported that opponents of the festival packed a Vernon town board meeting last night. Many people were concerned that 65,000 people coming to the rural area would be too much for the town to handle. One upstate New York sheriff, Rob Maciol, said that holding the festival at the horse track in just 40 days would pose as a safety risk.
Others echoed Maciol’s views, including Oneida County’s emergency management director Kevin Revere.
“Any emergency management director will say there isn’t enough time to do this properly,” Revere said at the meeting. “The less time you have to plan this stuff, the margin of error goes up tremendously.”
During the meeting, three Woodstock 50 representatives were present, Syracuse.com reports, and the main spokesperson noted that the festival will go on if all approvals are granted and concerns are addressed.
“We’re applying for the permits now, and it’s up to the town and the people who live here,” Cronin told Syracuse.com. “We’re not asking to do anything illegal. We simply would like a fair shot.”
Cronin also explained that Woodstock 50 would be split into three separate one-day festivals. By eliminating the camping aspect of the festival, organizers can apply for a “public gathering” permit, rather than a “mass gathering” permit. However, the festival will still need to coincide with Vernon Downs to discuss traffic, parking, sanitation, water supply, security, first aid, and lighting.
Many opponents cited Woodstock ’99, the 25th anniversary event at Griffis Air Force Base in Rome, which ended in riots and fires. However, Cronin argued that Woodstock ’99 was a lot bigger, and this festival would be much smaller to manage.
This is just the latest hurdle for the anniversary event; Woodstock 50 lost one of their headlining acts, had to push back their ticket on sale date, and lost their financial backer. Additionally, promoters lost a court battle to get Dentsu Aegis Network to return the $18.9 million invested into the festival, so the all the artists on the A-list lineup aren’t necessarily obligated to perform at the event.
Nonetheless, creator Michael Lang believes the festival still has a shot, insisting that Woodstock 50 will be an “amazing and inspiring festival experience.”