By Matt Youngfrau
BETHEL August 14, 2001 In 1969, one of the more famous events in American history took place in Sullivan County. Hundreds of thousands of people converged on Max Yasgur's farm in Bethel for the original Woodstock Music Festival that August and ever since, young and old alike have returned to celebrate the spirit of Woodstock.
One of the popular reunion spots has been the property owned by Roy Howard and Jeryl Abramson off 17B just west of Bethel. Due to difficulties with trash, mud, and drugs at last year's event, Howard and Abramson decided not to keep the stage which hosted performers and speakers at several previous political rallies on their property. However, they did loan their stage to this year's organizers of a planned reunion down the road.
"We're not having music here," Abramson commented. "If people want to come and visit, we'll be home."
Initially, independently of Howard and Abramson, this year's gathering was scheduled to take place on August 17, 18, and 19 at Louis Cappelli's farm in Bethel (not associated with Louis Cappelli of the Concord). The 20-acre farm is on 17B, just before the light in White Lake, the site of a 1994 reunion labeled FreedomFest. Now called the "2001 Woodstockers Political Reunion Rally," it was being organized by Jim Cutler of Five Star Productions.
However, plans have taken many twists and turns in the past several weeks.
The Town of Bethel was planning on getting a restraining order to prevent the concert from taking place. They were also seeking another restraining order to stop the event based on the fact that the farm is not zoned for entertainment.
Cutler said he had been working with the Town of Bethel and the New York State Department of Health to abide by all the legal procedures, adding that he would strictly follow the mass gathering law, which only allows a maximum of 5,000 people. Since it was being billed as a political event, further permits were not necessary.
"We do not plan to have over 5,000 people there," Cutler remarked recently. "We will turn away any more than 5,000. We will not go against the Health Department."
However, town officials did not believe Cutler's claims, saying it was a concert event and had only recently been called a political rally. In fact, the only confirmed political speaker was Cutler's attorney, Michael Sussman, among about 30 groups planning to play at the event.
"This is something we deal with every year," remarked Bethel Supervisor Allan Scott. "We don't react favorably to what this event does to the neighbors. It never ceases to amaze me that people can do this sort of thing to their neighbors."
On Thursday, August 9, the matter was in Sullivan County Court before Judge Mark Meddaugh, since the town and the New York State Attorney General were seeking to stop the event. As the papers from the Attorney General's Office were filed just before the proceedings and Sussman had less than 24 hours to review Bethel's papers, Meddaugh allowed him until Monday, August 13 to respond. Meddaugh stated that he would have a decision on Wednesday, August 15. Until then, a temporary restraining order was issued to stop Cutler from advertising the event.
On Saturday, August 11, on the Woodstockers Reunion website, it was announced that the event was cancelled. Ticketbuyers, band members and vendors were encouraged to get in touch with Cutler about refund information.
There was also this cryptic message: "We're not here! Do you know where we are? If you think you know, go! If you don't, ask a friend. We will survive, my friends. Now is the time to show our support and assemble peaceably. Peace shall prevail."
Although a fair amount of people have been noted at Howard and Abramsons property this past weekend, it could not be learned where Cutler and crew had taken their plans.
Being that it will be the Woodstock anniversary weekend, other events are rumored to be in the works, such as "Spiritstock" and Greenpeace, although again nothing could be confirmed.
However, Bethel Supervisor Allan Scott and counsel Rob Mc-Kewen said before court proceedings that they would keep an eye out for illegal events within the township.