Bethel Woods Center for the Arts “We Are Golden”exhibit set to open
John Meore, email@example.com
Woodstock 50’s financial partner announced Monday that the highly anticipated anniversary music festival was canceled, but the organizers weren’t backing down and insisted the show will go on as planned Aug. 16 to 18 in Schuyler County, New York.
But according to Schuyler County Administrator Tim O’Hearn, local officials are ready to move on without the economic boost from the event.
O’Hearn said he received an email shortly before noon Monday from promoter Dentsu Aegis Network that the event was canceled.
After various reports were published announcing the cancellation, the organizers released a statement: “Woodstock 50 vehemently denies the festival’s cancellation and legal remedy will (be) sought.”
Officials at Watkins Glen International racetrack, the site of the festival, had no comment.
Why is Woodstock 50 canceled?
The statement from Dentsu Aegis Network didn’t offer any specifics on why the festival is being canceled.
“It’s a dream for agencies to work with iconic brands and to be associated with meaningful movements,” the statement read. “We have a strong history of producing experiences that bring people together around common interests and causes, which is why we chose to be a part of the Woodstock 50th Anniversary Festival.
“But despite our tremendous investment of time, effort and commitment, we don’t believe the production of the festival can be executed as an event worthy of the Woodstock Brand name while also ensuring the health and safety of the artists, partners and attendees,” the statement said.
Were permits issued for Woodstock 50?
The New York State Department of Health said it was on track to approve permits for the event.
“From the beginning planning stages, the New York State Department of Health has worked closely and collaboratively with all parties involved in Woodstock 50 to assure a safe and successful event,” the DOH said in a statement.
“Today’s cancellation announcement is not a result of the permit application pending with the Department. The Department was surprised to learn of today’s decision to cancel the event.”
O’Hearn also said the county legislature was waiting for additional information before acting on requests for necessary permits at the county level.
Why does it matter?
While tickets had yet to go on sale, fans hoping to travel to upstate New York and the Finger Lakes region had already started to book hotel rooms and make plans to travel to the region.
And, Schuyler County and Watkins Glen were ready to welcome them.
O’Hearn said state and local officials were planning the event for months, since plans were first announced Jan. 9.
There was no prior indication of any problems, and cancellation of the event is a big disappointment, he said.
According to Chris Banker, WGI director of public relations, the track had been working with organizers for two years and they expected the event could have an economic impact of $30 million to $50 million.
“It’s a surprise, no question about that, and we’re certainly disappointed and have to respect their decision, but this is a huge economic loss for the county,” O’Hearn said. “We hope we can salvage something from it as we move forward.
“There has been substantial planning from both the state and county, as well as the town (of Dix) and Village of Watkins Glen for months now,” he said. “The state in particular has deployed tremendous resources to assist with planning efforts, geared toward a safe and responsible event.”
The impact of a Woodstock event could have meant an impact in the millions of dollars for Watkins Glen and the entire region, O’Hearn said.
However, since August is in the middle of the peak summer tourist season, area hotels will most likely still be filled during that weekend even without the festival, he said.
What about the Bethel Woods concerts?
Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, on the original Woodstock site in Sullivan County, ran into its own problems staging a 50th anniversary festival.
The Bethel Woods Music and Culture Festival was scheduled for the anniversary weekend. The festival was cancelled and instead organizers announced a series of performers who would pay tribute to the Woodstock legacy. Bethel Woods later said it was due in part to the site’s wish to keep its museum accessible to all on the anniversary weekend, not just festival goers.
Bethel Woods announced that Ringo Starr would perform Aug. 16 and original Woodstock performer Carlos Santana, joined by the Doobie Brothers, would play the site on Aug. 17.
Original Woodstock performer Arlo Guthrie will play a free show at Bethel Woods on Aug. 15, prior to a screening of the 1970 Woodstock documentary.
Also, John Fogerty will perform in the pavilion on Aug. 18. Santana and Fogerty played the 1969 Woodstock concert. Joining Starr on Aug. 16 will be original Woodstock acts Edgar Winter and Blood, Sweat & Tears.
The original Woodstock Music and Art Fair was held Aug. 15 to 18, 1969, and attracted hundreds of thousands of people to Sullivan County.
Jam-band favorites Phish’s plans for a third festival at WGI were canceled last August after heavy rain led to flooding and a lack of potable water at the racetrack and surrounding areas.
In that instance, Schuyler County and the New York State Department of Health were unable to issue the required permits for the festival.
While the Woodstock plans might be falling through four months before the festival, Curveball, the Phish festival, was canceled a day before the event was scheduled to begin and as thousands of fans were traveling to the Finger Lakes.
However, Schuyler County and the surrounding community at least benefited in other ways. Many fans had already made it to Watkins Glen International, and the band also distributed $100,000 to seven nonprofit groups in the county.
What’s next for WGI?
If the organizers are unable to revive Woodstock 50, as usual the biggest event at Watkins Glen International will be the annual Monster Energy NASCAR Cup race. Go Bowling at the Glen will be held Aug. 4 at the track.
The track has hosted a NASCAR Cup race every year since 1986, and also held races in 1957, 1964 and 1965.
John W. Barry, from the Poughkeepsie Journal, contributed to this report.
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