The Woodstock Music & Art Fair—informally, the Woodstock Festival or simply Woodstock—was a music festival, billed as "An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music". It was held at Max Yasgur's 600-acre (240 ha; 0.94 sq mi) dairy farm in the Catskills near the hamlet of White Lake in the town of Bethel, New York, from August 15 to 18, 1969. Bethel, in Sullivan County, is 43 miles (69 km) southwest of the town of Woodstock, New York, in adjoining Ulster County.
During the sometimes rainy weekend, 32 acts performed outdoors before an audience of 400,000 young people. It is widely regarded as a pivotal moment in popular music history. Rolling Stone listed it as one of the 50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock and Roll.
The festival is also widely considered to be the definitive nexus for the larger counterculture generation.
The event was captured in the 1970 documentary movie Woodstock, an accompanying soundtrack album, and Joni Mitchell's song "Woodstock", which commemorated the event and became a major hit for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
The influx of attendees to the rural concert site in Bethel created a massive traffic jam. Fearing chaos as thousands began descending on the community, Bethel did not enforce its codes. Eventually, announcements on radio stations as far away as WNEW-FM in Manhattan and descriptions of the traffic jams on television news discouraged people from setting off to the festival. Arlo Guthrie made an announcement that was included in the film saying that the New York State Thruway was closed. The director of the Woodstock museum discussed below said this never occurred. To add to the problems and difficulty in dealing with the large crowds, recent rains had caused muddy roads and fields. The facilities were not equipped to provide sanitation or first aid for the number of people attending; hundreds of thousands found themselves in a struggle against bad weather, food shortages, and poor sanitation.
On the morning of Sunday, August 17, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller called festival organizer John Roberts and told him he was thinking of ordering 10,000 New York State National Guard troops to the festival. Roberts was successful in persuading Rockefeller not to do this. Sullivan County declared a state of emergency. During the festival, personnel from nearby Stewart Air Force Base assisted in helping to ensure order and airlifting performers in and out of the concert venue.
Jimi Hendrix was the last act to perform at the festival. Because of the rain delays that Sunday, when Hendrix finally took the stage it was 8:30 Monday morning. The audience, which had peaked at an estimated 400,000 during the festival, was now reduced to about 30,000 by that point; many of them merely waited to catch a glimpse of Hendrix before leaving during his performance.
Hendrix and his new band, Gypsy, Sun and Rainbows (Introduced as The Experience, but corrected by Jimi) performed a two-hour set. His psychedelic rendition of the U.S. national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner" occurred about 3⁄4 into their set (after which he segued into "Purple Haze"). The song would become "part of the sixties Zeitgeist" as it was captured forever in the Woodstock film; Hendrix's image performing this number wearing a blue-beaded white leather jacket with fringe and a red head scarf, has since been regarded as a defining moment of the 1960s.