On Aug. 15, 1969, half a million people stampeded into a dairy farm in Bethel, N.Y., for Woodstock Arts and Music Festival, “three days of peace and music” at a time of civil unrest in the country.
When the concert comes to mind, some attendees recollect the trash, portable toilet lines, mud, traffic and marijuana smoke in the air, yet others recall a jolting sense of liberation and unity – a turning point that would influence them for the rest of their lives.
Fifty years later, two Mother Lode locals shared their experiences with the Enterprise.
Although then-19-year-old Vermont resident Shanda McGrew stepped on a broken beer bottle from the second her bare foot left the Volkswagen bus to trek three miles to the venue, she recalls Woodstock as one of many chapters in her “e-ticket life.”
A memory that stays with her to this day is hearing Country Joe McDonald perform “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag” – a Vietnam War protest song – during which he ignited the crowd with expletives.
She remembers the crowd’s chant of “I want to take you higher” echoing across the sky to Sly and the Family Stone as she hobbled to the bus to make it back in time for work at a five-and-dime store that Monday morning.
“I remember some rain and some heat and just about everything,” McGrew says. “It was just really astonishing – nobody knew it was going to be what it turned out to be.”
McGrew moved to Calaveras County in 1972, where she spent the next few decades crawling through brush and river canyons as an arborist for a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. contractor.
“I just always liked working outdoors,” McGrew says.
The city girl turned country currently resides in Glencoe.
Fiddletown resident Mara Feeney says that Woodstock was a huge turning point for her. She remembers laying her sleeping bag down in a huge blob of people, chopping cabbage to make soup in the communal kitchen and falling asleep as Janis Joplin – the performer she was most excited to see – took the stage.
A fresh high school graduate working three jobs, “It was a time of my life I came to realize I was now in charge of the rest of my life,” Feeney says.
Over the ensuing 50 years, she traveled the world, wrote a novel, finished college with an anthropology degree, lived in the Canadian Arctic and got adopted into an Inuit family that she’s still in touch with. She worked as an environmental consultant in Canada and the Bay Area before moving to the foothills in 1991 to build the vineyard she maintains today.
“(Woodstock) was just an experience like no other one,” Feeney says. “I’ve never been in a crowd that large gathered purposefully that was so well-behaved, (and where everyone was) so downright appreciative and loving of each other. What a hell of a concert.”