Democrat Photo by Ted Waddell
MUD AND MUSIC: Nineteen-year-old Garett Pauley of Moscow, Pa. decided that sandals were an impediment to walking through the mud during this weekends Greenstock. His guitar, however, saw much more use, to the delight of the thousands who attended.
Whatever the Name,
People Came to Bethel
By Ted Waddell
BETHEL August 15, 2000 Back in 1969, it was peace, love and a little mud.
On Saturday, at the start of what was billed as a political rally for the Green Party at Max Yasgurs old farm a few miles from the site of the original Woodstock festival, there was tons of mud.
Enough mud to pull off your well worn hippie sandals or, for the middle aged crowd, yuppie Birkenstocks.
More than enough mud to get all but the most die-hard four wheel drives bogged down in the fields now owned by Roy Howard and Jeryl Abramson.
As the rains continued to fall so much rain in fact that, for a while, a state of emergency was declared in the county most of the crowd of about 2,500 sought shelter in stranded vehicles or stayed put in their soggy tents.
There were a lot of kids in the crowd this year. They were joined by members of the Rainbow Family, a group of hard-core hippies that are devoted to the life of a wanderer.
While a few die-hards stood in the pouring rain in front of the stage, Pearl (aka Beverly Piconi) of Lake Ariel, Pa. took the sparse crowd on a time trip back to the days of the immortal Janis Joplin, the original Pearl, with a power and energy resembling that of the departed entertainer.
They charge us up, said the local singer who really knew how to belt one out from the heart to the wet-to-the-bone folks in the rain. Theyre real troopers.
Meanwhile, in a dry corner of the barn, a handful of members from the Green Party got together to discuss issues such as the support of community economics, opposition to chemical spraying and repeal of laws prohibiting the recreational use of marijuana.
After Pearl left the stage, Green Party candidate for the U.S. Senate Mark Dunau addressed a soaked crowd of about 20 in front of the stage and some folks clustered around the traditional fire ring. As the candidate called for a policy of Dont Submit, he said everyone should be free to smoke dope. One enthusiastic supporter nearly fell through the wire fence in front of the stage in his ardent support of Dunaus pro-grass message.
Harold Russell, a dairy farmer whos lived next door to Max Yasgurs old farm for 26 years, wasnt too thrilled with the whole thing. As people kept arriving through the night, he kept chasing them out of his hay barn for fear they would start a fire and burn it to the ground.
According to Russell, around 7 a.m. on Saturday morning, his wife saw three people beating up one guy in the barn . . . and then they took turns urinating on him.
The county sheriff took the three guys away, and the ambulance took away the other guy, he said. You just cant get involved in that. These kids are something!
Russell said that everyone should take turns living alongside the site of the annual rite of passage to get an idea of what its really like . . . then they would understand it.
The only people who made any money last night were the tow truck drivers, he added.
The NYS Police had been active since the start of the event, keeping the main roadway clear of parked cars and maintaining the peace.
Reportedly, it cost drivers who illegally parked their cars along the edge of Route 17B up to $125 to get their vehicles back after they were towed.
The Sullivan County Sheriffs Department and the Town of Bethel constables were also patrolling the area.
Sullivan County Sheriff Dan Hogue was up at the crack of dawn checking out the rally.
I stopped to talk to people walking to the site along the roadway, he said. Most of them had never heard of the political rally.
I asked them if they had voter registration cards, and they didnt know what I was talking about, he added. A couple of them were too young to vote anyway.
According to Hogue, deputies made several arrests for drug possession and/or sale and vehicle/traffic violations, including numerous DWIs. Two men from Pennsylvania were charged with second-degree assault in the incident which occurred in Russells barn.
It was apparently a dispute over a female, he said.
Meanwhile, most folks just seemed to endure the deluge of rain and dream of the Woodstock feeling: that ephemereal thing of magic that has survived the dawn of the new millennium.
As the mud worsened and the skies refused to lighten, people worked shoulder to shoulder to free cars stuck in the mud.
Mike Smith and Denise Hazen of Hancock called it quits about noon.
It was a trip, he said.
Hazens take on the muddy affair?
It was cool.
I had a good time, said 19-year-old Garett Pauley of Moscow, Pa. as he trudged through the mud toward the highway. I wish we had a waterproof tent, but after that, it was just a little wet.
According to Jeryl Abramson, other than a little mud, things were pretty good.
Its fun, and I know the towing services have been making a lot of money, she said.
Throughout the morning, Roy Howard was helping pull mired cars out of the field in his mud-splattered tractor.
Another worker, Mark Young of Mahwah, NJ, has been helping out with events at Yasgurs farm for years.
This is my third family, he said. Ive been coming here for many, many years. Brotherhood brings me out here.
First there was the 1969 Aquarian Exposition, the Woodstock Music & Art Fair, a spontaneous happening during a time of social upheaval, as the Vietnam War was heating up and the civil rights movement was gaining steam. In the following years, the site of the original concert witnessed unofficial gatherings and a neverending series of political and financial scenarios, as would-be promoters crossed the stage only to disappear into the woodwork.
Then came Alan Gerrys so-called Corpstocks and long-range plans to transform what many believe to be hallowed ground into a permanent performing arts center in Sullivan County.
This weekend, there was Mudstock, Greenstock or a political party rally. Call it what you will, one things for sure, agreed the crowd: if you throw a party, lots of folks are going to show up at your door.