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Dedicated to the Historic Preservation of the Site of the 1969 Woodstock Festival

Hurd & West Shore Rds
Sullivan County
Bethel  NY


Ceremony celebrates groundbreaking at Woodstock Site
By Alicia Chang, Associated Press, 7/19/2004 19:04

BETHEL, N.Y. (AP) The site of the 1969 Woodstock concert, invoking images of mud and music, is undergoing a transformation.

Construction crews spent last month moving earth and paving the road to make room for the soon-to-be-built amphitheater located on a hillside overlooking the old concert stage.

Officials of the nonprofit foundation that owns the historic spot and surrounding land about 80 miles north of New York City gathered Monday for a groundbreaking ceremony.

When completed in 2006, the $63 million performing arts and music center christened the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts would be the first permanent structure to be erected on the site. It would feature a 4,800-person indoor seating theater that can hold another 12,000 spectators on the lawn.

Officials plan to kick off the center's opening with a 2006 Fourth of July concert starring the New York Philharmonic. Future entertainment at the venue will range from classical music and opera to rock and pop to jazz and cabaret.

The idea to develop the site came from Alan Gerry, a millionaire businessman who in 1997 bought the 37-acre concert site that was home to Max Yasgur's old farm for about $1 million. Gerry later snapped up 1,300 surrounding acres for an undisclosed sum.

"This is truly a community project," Gerry said Monday in a ceremony attended by state lawmakers, local officials and residents.

Gov. George Pataki toured the site Monday morning prior to the ceremony. He said the arts center "signals the beginning of a new cultural renaissance" for Sullivan County and will serve as a major tourist destination.

Although Gerry, who founded the nonprofit Gerry Foundation charged with developing the Woodstock site, never attended the original musical festival, he occasionally visits the site.

For years, a grassroots preservation group, the Woodstock Preservation Alliance, tried to block development on the hallowed music grounds, saying it should remain an unimpeded refuge for the thousands of visitors who continue to flock every year to reminisce about the hippie days.

"There are so many people upset about this move. We still support the arts center and what it may do for Sullivan County. However, the Gerry Foundation has been given carte blanche to interpret and desecrate an icon to a generation," said Brad Littleproud of the Woodstock Preservation Alliance.

The foundation said ground zero of the original festival the site of the concert stage where musicians like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin graced the stage will remain untouched.

The state committed $15 million to the arts center, but will have no ownership of the project. The foundation will raise the rest through endowments and private contributions.

The architect firm that designed the Woodstock arts center, Cleveland-based Westlake Reed Leskosky, is best known for its layout of the Blossom Music Center, the summer home of the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra.

Besides the amphitheater, there are also plans to construct a museum that would tell the history of Woodstock, a three-day festival in August 1969. An outdoor pavilion would also be built that would house seasonal craft festivals and other events.

Duke Devlin, 61, who attended the original Woodstock festival, said he is looking forward to the new Woodstock site.

"This is a phenomenon that I've been waiting for for a long time," Devlin said.