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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


Groundbreaking at Woodstock concert site for permanent music and arts center

By Alicia Chang

5:46 p.m. July 19, 2004


BETHEL, N.Y. – Ground was broken Monday for a performing arts and music center on the site of the Woodstock Festival, the legendary summer of 1969 celebration of "peace, love and music" that attracted hundreds of thousands to rural upstate New York.

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

Construction crews spent last month moving earth and paving the road to make room for the amphitheater 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 for the groundbreaking ceremony.

Officials plan to kick off the center 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 at the ceremony attended by state lawmakers, local officials and residents.

For years, a preservation group, the Woodstock Preservation Alliance, tried to block any development on the grounds where musicians like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin took the stage for three days in August 1969. The group said the site should remain untouched – a refuge for thousands who 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 the site of the original concert stage will remain untouched.

The state committed $15 million to the arts center; the foundation will raise the rest through endowments and private contributions.

Besides the amphitheater, there are also plans to build a museum that would tell the history of the long weekend that was Woodstock