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February 8: Yasgur’s Farm

Lawrence Bush
February 8, 2010

Max_1970Dairy farmer Max Yasgur died on this day in 1973, less than four years after hosting the Woodstock Festival of August 15-18, 1969 on his land in Bethel, New York. Yasgur was the largest milk producer in Sullivan County in the 1960s, with 650 cows. Although he was a Republican and supported the Vietnam War, he was angered by the opposition of his neighbors to the hippie festival. “If I know my American history,” he told his town board, “tens of thousands of Americans in uniform gave their lives in war after war just so those kids would have the freedom to do exactly what they are doing.” He was also appalled at the opportunism that led vendors to sell water and other basics at the overwhelmed event, and responded by distributing free water in milk bottles and giving away milk products.
“You’ve proven to the world I . . . that a half a million kids — and I call you kids because I have children that are older than you are — a half million young people can get together and have three days of fun and music and have nothing but fun and music, and I ‘God bless you’ for it!”—Max Yasgur, speaking to the Woodstock Festival.
Watch a video of Max Yasgur speaking to the crowd at Woodstock:

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.