Democrat Photo by Rob Potter
Jeryl Abramson and Roy Howard at their farm, formerly Max Yasgur's, in Bethel
No Woodstock Events,
But There Will Be a Rally
By Rob Potter
BETHEL July 21, 2000 As the Sullivan County Democrat and other media reported several weeks ago, the Gerry Foundation will not be staging any Day in the Garden type events at the original Woodstock site in Bethel this summer.
Of course, visitors may still stop by the site and view the historical monument that details the events of August 15, 16 and 17, 1969. Liberty businessman and cable pioneer Alan Gerry said this year that he and the staff of the Gerry Foundation are focusing on the long-range construction of a performing arts center and other numerous offerings at the site. They considered the concerts successful and proof of the viability of such uses of the Woodstock site. And the second annual installment of the popular Fall Garden Harvest Market is still slated to be held at the site later this year.
Just down the road this August, however, a political rally will be held at the former Max Yasgur farm. Roy Howard and Jeryl Abramson, current owners of the property, will host a Green Party political rally Friday, August 11 through Sunday, August 13.
It is open to everyone who thinks green, Abramson said. Anyone who is interested or curious and believes in what the Green Party stands for should attend.
Among the concerns of the Green Party are environmental issues, womens rights and civil rights of U.S. citizens as well as those people living in other nations around the world.
Abramson added that the Green Party holds four large assemblies at various New York State locations each year. She and Howard are very honored to be in a position to host this assembly.
Among those expected to speak at the rally are Bill Brenner from Grahamsville, a New York State Senate candidate running on the Green line; Frank Carr, editor of The Green Times; Mitchell Cohn, who will speak on civil rights issues; Mark Danau, a candidate for the New York State Senate; Afrime Derti, a womens rights advocate; and Paul Feiner, who is running for U.S. Congress in the 20th District.
Abramson and Howard expect more speakers to attend the rally but have not yet confirmed their attendance.
And the speakers may not simply convey their message in statements after all, this is former Woodstock property owner Max Yasgurs farm. And no one is claiming that Woodstock principles of freedom and music arent going to be a part of the rally, especially this close to the famous concerts anniversary.
Music is a form of freedom of speech, Abramson noted. Some of the speakers will be performing music, as is their right under the First Amendment.
In the past, the couple have been in court with the Town of Bethel and Sullivan County over unofficial and unorganized gatherings of Woodstock anniversary celebrants at their farm off Route 17B, approximately three miles from the concert site on Hurd Road. The town and county successfully claimed that such events violated local mass gathering laws, and Howard has been permanently banned from creating or promoting any more of those types of events.
Such an organized political rally, however, is acceptable under the law and will probably be the only event this summer even remotely related to Woodstock and will be sure to attract Woodstockers as much as Green Party supporters.
Howard and Abramson are excited about hosting the political rally and are very busy preparing their property for the event. They are, however, disappointed that the Gerry Foundation has chosen not to hold a Day in the Garden concert weekend this summer even though Foundation officials have insisted they are not swearing off future events at the site.
In the summers of 1998 and 1999, the Foundation sponsored a number of concerts at the original Woodstock site. The events featured artists like Richie Havens, who was a performer at the 1969 event, as well as contemporary acts like Britney Spears, who was born more than a decade after Woodstock.
The Gerry Foundation backed down in spite of all of the public support past events received, Abramson stated. We feel that is a great disappointment to the community and county. In light of the economic condition of Sullivan County, its too bad that the Gerry Foundation will not be holding an event here in Bethel.
Gerry Foundation spokesperson Glenn Pontier declined comment when contacted.
Abramson encourages anyone even mildly interested in the Green Party to attend the weekend political rally.