JOSEPH LIPNER AND Abigail Yasgur collaborated on the book “Max Said Yes.”.
'Max Said Yes' - and history was made
By Jeanne Sager
SULLIVAN COUNTY All it took was a “yes.”
The Woodstock festival planners were without a home, and Max Yasgur had alfalfa fields open and waiting.
He said yes.
And that was that.
It’s why Abigail Yasgur has spent 40 years answering the question, “Hey, are you related to that guy who had Woodstock?”
She is. The Los Angeles, California librarian is Max Yasgur’s second cousin.
And no, she wasn’t at Woodstock. She was too young, unable to drive from her home in Bradford, Pa., to Bethel.
But she was a child growing up in the ’60s. Woodstock is part of her story too.
And her name, Yasgur, is synonymous with it all.
It’s why Yasgur and husband Joseph Lipner have written a children’s book to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Woodstock.
The main character?
Max. Their son’s namesake. Their hero.
“Max Said Yes” is 32 pages of lush illustrations with the story of Woodstock written in verse.
“The story is driven by the pictures, driven by the illustrations,” Yasgur explained. “What works best with children’s picture books is rhyme because children get it, and they can remember it.”
She drew on her background as a librarian in writing the tale, spoke with Yasgur’s widow Miriam and did her own research for the story.
The couple got an agent and earned a publishing deal which they shot down in favor of printing it themselves to retain creative control.
Illustrator Barbara Mendes, a flower child who lived on a commune during the days of Woodstock, signed on to paint the story.
The result, Abigail said, is “all about this man who said yes to a big idea.”
That, as much as the story of Woodstock itself, is what the mother of three hopes kids will take away from the book.
She expects grandparents - and even parents to be buying it for themselves, to bring out the story of an Aquarian Exposition at White Lake.
“I know people hold Woodstock dearly,” she explained. “And there’s a new generation that needs to learn about Woodstock why not learn it through the story of its hero?
“It can serve as an entree to other discussions,” she continued, highlighting a historical section at the tail end of “Max Said Yes” that brushes on the civil rights movement, the war in Vietnam and other stories of the ’60s.
“People have asked, ‘How can you write a children’s book about it? There’s so much drugs and sex,’” Yasgur said with a laugh. “We left that out. We’re parents, we know parents have to make that decision for themselves.”
They can take from the book what they want, she said, couch whatever lessons in it that they want.
Still, she hopes the overriding lesson is in being open to big ideas.
As Max Yasgur famously said, “I’m a farmer . . . I don’t know how to speak to 20 people at a time, let alone a crowd like this. But I think you people have proven something to the world . . . . a half a million young people can get together and have three days of fun and music and have nothing but fun and music, and God bless you for it.”
“A good way to be is to be like Max, to listen to people, to give of yourself, to say yes in a world where so many people say no!” Abigail Yasgur said, tearing up in excitement.
The book will be available at the Museum at Bethel Woods this summer, but you can get a copy online at www.maxsaidyes.com.