CORNWALL, Ontario – Local Ray Carson was in his 20s when he decided to hop on a bus with a friend on Aug. 15 of 1969 and head down to Bethel, N.Y.
His friend was working as a music promoter in Montreal at the time and had heard about the festival taking place just south of Woodstock. He asked Carson to join him along the journey on a whim. To this day, during its 50th anniversary, it is something Carson will never forget as he experienced the concert that revolutionized music and hippie culture throughout the 1960s and 1970s: Woodstock.
Artists like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Who, Joe Cocker, Joan Baez, Richie Havens and many more performed at the free, three-day, psychedelic outdoor phenomena. Carson remembers the disastrous and unexpected crowd, estimated at around 400,000 attendees, sharing foods and supplies.
“For me it was a fluke going…I didn’t have a clue how big it was going to be,” said Carson. “Some called it a bit of a disaster…that is kind of what made it so special.”
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the festival, which was held from Aug. 15-18, 1969, Cornwall Public Library worked with Carson to create a colourful, nostalgic display.
“Ray brought original paraphernalia from Woodstock because he had actually been there and I was the one who kind of embellished the material he had by making some hippie (style) jewelry from the era and some of the props,” said Johanne Whitehouse, Information Services Clerk at Cornwall Public Library, crediting Carson with most of the work. “I think a lot of people who were there are really reminiscing…and The Port Theatre is also on board, showing a documentary on the festival this weekend.”
The documentary will be shown at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 16 and Saturday, Aug. 17.
“It was in the history books,” said Carson, who is eternally grateful to have spontaneously attended the festival, and hoped to remind locals of the peaceful, fun era that Woodstock inspired.