Bart Smeets is visiting the USA from Belgium for the first time. He brought his wife and two daughters to instill the spirit of Woodstock.
Patrick Oehler, Poughkeepsie Journal

BETHEL, N.Y. — The 1969 Woodstock festival sharpened the divide between generations.

Five decades later, the historic gathering is bringing them together.

On the first two days of the 50th anniversary Woodstock weekend celebration on the festival site in upstate New York, parents, children and friends, spanning multiple generations, have come together to bridge the gap.

Where the counterculture once stood in defiance of its elders, demanding its voice be heard, age has grown irrelevant as attendees say the ideals from 50 years ago — the power of peace, love and music among them — remain timeless.


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And much of it is crystallizing this weekend during the golden anniversary of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair on the former alfalfa field owned by farmer Max Yasgur, land that is now home to Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. 

Concertgoers in their teens, 20s and 30s mingled seamlessly with their baby-boomer counterparts.

Sure, it seemed that nearly everyone’s face was buried in a cellphone at some point. But missing was the feeling that every action was fueled by the need to Instagram, which can often be apparent at bigger festivals drawing younger audiences.

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And while participation in the original Woodstock may have caused argument for 1969 attendees and their parents, the 2019 celebration seems to have united them.

Phil Tarricone of Westmont, New Jersey, 24, was at Bethel Woods with his father, John Tarricone, 53, of Gloucester City, New Jersey, to see Arlo Guthrie perform Thursday, followed by Ringo Starr on Friday.

“My dad really passed this down to me, music and a love of festivals,” Phil Tarricone said.

The visit combines a passion for Woodstock, a love of live music and enjoying it with his father, all underscored by the pursuit of freedom — which framed much of the 1969 Woodstock festival — said the younger Tarricone.

“It’s about freedom, it’s about just not having to worry about what other people think, you do what you want, if it feels right you do it,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be a long list of rules.”

And Phil Tarricone said there is no need to place a timestamp on any of it.

“I think it’s more relevant today (than) it ever was,” he said. “It’s a crazy world we live in now and it was a crazy world back then. So a lot of the stuff they were saying then still holds true today.” 


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‘I did a great job as a parent’

Asked about his son’s passion for Woodstock and its ideals of peace and unity, John Tarricone said with a smile, “I think I did a great job as a parent, that’s what I think.”

He conceded that nostalgia drives much of the Woodstock legacy.

“I don’t think it can ever be re-created,” he said. “I just feel like people aren’t the same anymore.” 

But Woodstock in 2019 is a great catalyst for bridging the generational divide.


Talking to attendees of the Woodstock 50th anniversary, they share their stories of how they got here and what happened 50 years ago.
Patrick Oehler, Poughkeepsie Journal

“If it’s actually a feeling that you believe in, then you want to pass that down,” John Tarricone said. “If it’s something that actually touches your life, you want to pass that down and make other people aware of it and the first people that would come to mind would be your children.

“They’re the next generation, they get to pass down the ideals, too,” he said. “And I’m sure he’ll look back at this and have great memories, but I know it’s more than just a memory for him, it’s more than just an event. I think it’s a way of life.”

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Instilling ideals

Bart Smeets traveled with his wife and two daughters from Belgium to mark the Woodstock anniversary at Bethel Woods. He is 51 and his wife, Caroline Loots, is 50. His daughter, Kyara, is 16 and his younger daughter, Anais, is 11. 

Bart Smeets said instilling the ideals of peace, love and music in his daughters is important to him.

“This is my first visit to America and I’m really glad to share it with all the family,” he said.

Kyara Smeets said she has been impressed by the visuals of the roughly 450,000 people who attended Woodstock to “escape the world.”

“I don’t know what the world is without love and peace,” Kyara Smeets said. “We have to keep in mind that love and peace should be… the center of it all.”

Cutting across generations

Anne Roseberry of Buffalo, New York, is a 71-year-old social worker and attended Woodstock in 1969. She was at Bethel Woods on Friday with her co-worker and Buffalo neighbor, Sarah Punturiero, who is 31. They were planning on seeing Starr and, on Saturday, Santana.

“Coming with Anne, I knew it was sort of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to come with an original Woodstock person,” Punturiero said. “I knew it was an opportunity that I couldn’t miss.”

Roseberry believes Woodstock cuts across generations. 

“I think Woodstock made such a name for itself that young people want to get some of that and hold on to some of that,” Roseberry said. 

And that gives her hope.

“I think I have hope anyway, not all the time so much lately,” she said. “But I have hope, so this just kind of bolsters it. And even thinking of coming here, I could have come with people my age, I could have come with my husband, but I just wanted to come with Sarah.”


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