By Jeanne Sager
BETHEL July 13, 2004 The woods of Bethel will be ringing with good news for the county economy Monday afternoon.
Invitations went out last week for the official groundbreaking of Bethel Woods, the performing arts center that has been the talk of the town since the original site of the Woodstock Festival on Hurd Road was purchased by Alan Gerry in the late 1990s.
According to Glenn Pontier, spokesperson for the Gerry Foundation, physical groundwork actually began last month at the Bethel site.
Mondays groundbreaking will be a ceremony to mark the beginning of construction.
Local dignitaries will speak, and the foundation will unveil its plans for the multi-million-dollar project.
According to Pontier, work will continue on the site for the next two years, finishing up just in time for a July 2006 opening with the New York Philharmonic playing the first strains of music to be heard at Bethel Woods.
Plans developed by design firm Westlake, Reed, Leskosky of Clevelend, Ohio call for a covered pavilion with seating for 4,800 people in what the foundation refers to as the Gabriel Farm Bowl, adjacent to the field most people think of as Max Yasgurs farm (the home of the 1969 festival).
The scope of what were building is very exciting, Pontier said. This is going to be the centerpiece.
The project also includes an interpretive center, which Pontier likened to a museum.
It will talk about the 60s, the time in which this concert was held, the concert itself, the music . . . he said.
An events lobby, a small enclosed structure, will be erected to play host to chamber music ensembles, cabaret, childrens programs, even weddings.
The project will also include the construction of three permanent structures to replace the large white tents set up each summer for the farmers market and taken down after the fall harvest festival.
Were excited about that, Pontier noted. It will give us a permanent home for the farmers market and the fall festival, which serve a number of important purposes.
Theyre a merger of tourism and agriculture, two of the countys main economic bases.
We wanted to incorporate that as a permanent commitment with our performing arts center, Pontier noted.
Before the grand opening in 2006, basic sitework will have to be done as well from drainage improving some of the wetter areas to upgrading the parking.
The groundbreaking ceremony promises to give a sneak peek of whats to come. But remember: its invitation-only.