Activism in the Woodstock Era

On July 15, 1969 the Wallkill Zoning Board of appeals officially banned the Woodstock Music and Art Festival. But a humble farmer named Max Yasgur would find the courage to stand up to his neighbor. He said: I hear you are considering changing the zoning law to prevent the festival. I hear you don't like the look of the kids who are working at the site. I hear you don't like their lifestyle. I hear you don't like they are against the war and that they say so very loudly. . . I don't particularly like the looks of some of those kids either. I don't particularly like their lifestyle, especially the drugs and free love. And I don't like what some of them are saying about our government. However, if I know my American history, tens of thousands of Americans in uniform gave their lives in war after war just so those kids would have the freedom to do exactly what they are doing. That's what this country is all about and I am not going to let you throw them out of our town just because you don't like their dress or their hair or the way they live or what they believe. This is America and they are going to have their festival.

This 49-year-old, Republican, pro Vietnam War farmer agreed to host the Woodstock Festival on his farm in Bethel Woods. There were calls that threatened to burn him out and signs were erected around town, saying, “Local People Speak Out. Stop Max’s Hippie Music Festival.” “No 150,000 Hippies here!” “Buy No Milk.”

Max would not back down and thirty days later, Richie Havens opened the Woodstock Festival singing “Freedom” to 400,000 concert goers. Max Yasgur was a private citizen who was motivated by principles and fairness. Fifty years later, we could use more citizen heroes like Max.