WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Fifty years ago, 400,000 people descended on Bethel, New York, for what was called “an Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music,” but it’s best known as Woodstock.
The iconic event was the culmination of a packed 1969 which included controversy over the Vietnam War, the Space Race, the Stonewall riots, and the Manson murders. The concert included 32 acts that ranged from Jimi Hendrix to Sha Na Na.
Christina Palmer and Tom Howley were there and now live in the Cape Fear.
“I remember there was no racism in the crowd,” Palmer said. “There were blacks and whites and different ethnicities and everybody just got along.”
Palmer had traveled from Washington, DC, with friends, but quickly lost them. It wasn’t a problem, however, because she found friends everywhere.
“I slept with someone in a pup tent,” she said. “Woke up refreshed, and Santana played, and they were my absolute favorite group. I found out later that Carlos Santana was tripping on acid, because he didn’t know he was gonna go on right then.”
Howley was just 19 when he traveled with a friend to Woodstock.
“We almost didn’t make it,” he said. “So what happened was the NY State Thruway, which goes straight up to Albany at Harriman, NY, Rte 17 goes west toward the Catskills. So we were driving pretty fast, and we passed a car and there’s a couple in it and they were being very affectionate. A couple miles up the road traffic comes to a complete stop and bam! Who ran into us? The couple being very affectionate.”
He was there for the music, but realized there were also protests at the event.
“One thing interesting happened, and I didn’t know exactly what it was when it happened, because somebody ran on stage and picked up the microphone and says, ‘You people out here enjoying while John Sinclair is in prison in Michigan for smoking a joint.’ Something like that. Pete Townsend kicked him,” Howley said. “Turns out it was Abby Hoffman!”
After 50 years they both say they get the same question.
“People who talk to me about Woodstock, the first question: were you naked in the creek?” Palmer said.
Howley said, “The movie shows people in the lake. I never saw any lake. I don’t know where the lake was.”
They both agree, however, that it was a great weekend.