Moments That Captured the Essence of Woodstock

By Karen F

Known as the most iconic festival of the ages, Woodstock was meant to be nothing more than a relaxing weekend in the countryside of upstate New York. However, the 1969 festival was moved last minute, and the result was half a million eager festival-goers showing up for a weekend of music-filled fun. The feelings of peace and love running rapidly throughout the festival made the whole event seem otherworldly – a feeling we’ll never experience since the days of 1969’s Woodstock festival are long gone. We can, though, get a taste of these positive vibes through photos than have been left behind by festival-goers. From couples wrapped in blankets to iconic artists singing on stage – these iconic scenes will forever be imprinted in our memories as one of the most iconic festivals in history.

Love Up Above

Scheduled to make an appearance on Saturday, August 16th, Jefferson Airplane’s show was postponed until the following morning. That dawn, sometime before 8 a.m., festival-goers were awoken to the band’s opening song. Pictured is lead singer Grace Slick, whose fashion sense and singing voice remain some of the most iconic emblems of the ’60s.

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With her powerful, booming resonance, Slick’s vocals made songs like “White Rabbit”, “Somebody To Love”, and “Volunteers” instantly unforgettable. In a wardrobe choice emblematic of her era, here she can be seen surveying the unbelievable scene laid out before her through rose-colored glasses.

Feeding Frenzy

A mass gathering of people makes for a need for food; a shortage of said food creates a frenzy. Put the two together and you have a feeding frenzy much like the one witnessed at Woodstock. Even though the festival had enough food, people were still scouring for more. And we wouldn’t blame them after the energy they spent on singing songs of freedom, peace and love.

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Given the risks at hand, as well as the shortages experienced by concertgoers, it’s nothing short of miraculous how peacefully and smoothly the three days of the festival ended up. People who were there don’t tend to focus on what they didn’t have, but everything they did.

Who Needs A Ticket?

Woodstock promoters realized early on in the event that they had a problem. Not only were they going to run out of food, but they were already out of tickets by the time they reached the 100,000 attendees mark. Eventually, they gave up trying to find a solution to the ticket problem.

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Instead of trying to make money off of the entry, they announced the event free to everyone. In the end, it’s estimated that more than 300,000 people got in free of charge. Can you imagine what the sales figures for that many tickets would look like? Crazy!

Woman Of Great Beauty

Although we don’t know her name, this woman is like a living breathing representation of the Woodstock era. The concert venue was not just a place to experience music; it was a place to be seen, to live freely, for the Flower Children of the ’60s to experience each other.

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Part of this young woman’s appeal comes from the overall vibe she gives off. Her relaxed atmosphere perfectly encapsulates the area. The dress she wears almost looks as if it was hand made and her accessories are fitting for the event — and the decade.

Masterpiece Of Music

Featuring dozens of legendary bands like The Who, Santana, Credence Clearwater Revival, and Jimi Hendrix, Woodstock was truly a music festival for the ages. The venue had one stage and an estimated 500,000 onlookers.

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The magic of Woodstock spread like a fever, with every person in attendance coming down with good feelings and a wholesome, non-drug induced high. Songwriter Joni Mitchell said of the festival: “Woodstock was a spark of beauty where half-a-million kids saw that they were part of a greater organism.”

 Two Silent Hours

As you can imagine, catching a wink of shuteye at Woodstock was quite a task, so those who didn’t have shelter had to make do with what was available. It’s said that the music was so constant that throughout the whole festival there were only two hours of silence.

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According to some festival-goers, though, this two hour period was actually not silent at all; instead, it was filled with drum circles. There was no time for rest here! The drum circles were equally calming and people could drift off into a peaceful sleep here.

A Family Event

The word “Woodstock” probably doesn’t conjure up images of children and their families relaxing in the park – and for good reason, of course. That being said, it’s a safe bet that any children who were present probably grew up with awesome music tastes!

Photo courtesy of Pinterest/Carlos Madeira

Being a young person in the United States in 1969 was uniquely challenging. The Vietnam War draft was in full swing, but the voting age was 21 years old. The Woodstock Festival was a means of an entire generation coming together to show the world they could operate differently, and peacefully.

A Joyous Occasion

Here, the overarching joy felt by the masses is evident. There’s nothing quite like that loving embrace, the simple daisy flower, and mile-wide smiles to showcase having a good time. The pair showcased in this photo looks like they’re having the time of their lives and, if we’re honest, we’re kind of jealous!

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This is the type of fun that you never forget and, thanks to this photo, these two young people, whether lovers of friends, never will. It’s safe to assume, though, that when they captured this moment on film, they never expected the photo to make it onto a nostalgic list of vintage Woodstock photos. Did they know they were making history?

Believe In Magic

Appearing in this undeniably emblematic, brightly colored tie-dye outfit, you can practically feel the joy that singer-songwriter John Sebastian is sending out to the crowd. He’s probably grateful to be onstage at all: his performance was not planned!

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Because the concert staff needed time to clear the rainwater off the stage before their next act, John Sebastian, known for his work with the folk-pop group The Lovin’ Spoonful, was asked to come onstage to fill in. He had been enjoying himself among the crowd up until that point.

Feelin’ The Music

As Woodstock goers liked to say ” the party only stops when the music ceases to play”. This scenario is unheard of at Woodstock, so it’s no wonder that everyone – including festival-goers- had a chance to rock out on stage.

Photo courtesy of Instagram/woodstock_1_9_6_9

With bands playing early into the small hours of the morning, those who attended had a chance to show their talent on stage after the main acts had concluded for the night — or was it morning? It’s hard to say since no one slept. After all, how could you sleep in a place full of love and music? We surely wouldn’t be able to sleep here.

Meet Santana

Before the festival, those who attended Woodstock didn’t know who Santana was. Born out of San Francisco, Santana had released their first album earlier that month and hadn’t gained popularity yet.

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When they took the stage on the second day, though, they quickly became one of the top bands to play that year. Festival-goers were mesmerized by their lyrics, melodies, and catchy tunes. You may have come across Santana’s iconic songs: “Hope You’re Feeling Better” and the “Game of Love”

Expression Of Beauty

Woodstock is notorious for many things: its giant crowd, great musical lineup, positive vibes, and, of course, its fashion. No one at Woodstock was worried about having their makeup just right or their shirt pressed perfectly.

Photo courtesy of Pinterest/flowerchildiam

In fact, it’d be hard to find any women wearing makeup at all! Woodstock was all about rocking your natural beauty and being comfortable in your own skin. Nevertheless, this festively-dressed young woman is rocking the mascara game, truly bringing out her eyes.

Traffic For Miles

While Woodstock is called Woodstock, it wasn’t actually held in the town of its name. It was held in Bethel, nearly 50 miles away. People even walked from other cities to witness this revolutionary event. It was more than just a concert, it represented a movement.

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With half a million people attending, though, the traffic might just have been so backed up that it connected the two towns. In this photo, we get a look into how crazy the roads were. Makes us glad we weren’t driving in Bethel that weekend!

Joined By Joplin

When she was first contracted to play at Woodstock, Janis Joplin thought it would be “just another gig”. When she saw the crowds, however, she was overcome with nerves. Imagine the iconic Janis Joplin becoming overwhelmed by nerves oh my!

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

After her set, which she arrived via helicopter and ended at 2 a.m. on Sunday, she stayed to enjoy the party. Joplin rocked out with the rest of the crowd, joining in for the fun and staying until the end of the event. Her electrifying performance will always be remembered.

I Want To Take You Higher

Don’t you just wish you had this much energy and this much uninhibited bliss flowing through you? Here we see Sly Stone, the frontrunner of the funk band Sly and the Family Stone, radiating an electrifying joy right back at the adoring audience.

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He had good reason to be so thrilled. Stone’s band broke ground in many ways: they had both male and female leads, they were interracial, and their core was made up of none other than his brother and sister. But moreover, they had the opportunity to be part of the historical, earthshaking event that was Woodstock.

Jefferson Airplane Kicks Back

Although Jefferson Airplane played their set on Sunday morning, they were actually at the festival way earlier. A group of close friends from San Francisco, the band and its entourage loved the atmosphere of Woodstock – so much so that the group hung out with the masses until it was their turn to perform!

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When she was asked what she remembers most about Woodstock, Slick said she had fond memories of the helicopter ride in. She also recalled her and the rest of the band smoking and drinking wine while watching other bands perform.

Turning Up The A/C

When moving at a turtle’s pace, traffic is at least a little manageable; when it’s at a dead stop, however, it becomes the arch enemy of many drivers. These friends don’t seem to mind the traffic at all, though!

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Despite the fact that their car likely didn’t have A/C and that because of the traffic backup they probably missed a considerable amount of the show, they seem to be thoroughly enjoying their time on the side of the road. After all, this generation was a group of chill individuals and you could see how comfortable they are almost anywhere!

Furry Friends

Given the Flower Power generation’s embrace of free love for all, it’s no surprise that many of them were among the biggest supporters of different dietary lifestyles. Here, we can see a proponent of vegetarianism using Woodstock in order to make his point.

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The question is, if you came across this activist today on a sidewalk, toting a giant stick with a flower and a skull, and with his very own sheep in tow, would you be interested to stop and listen? Or would you be overwhelmed?

Sharing, Caring, And Sticking Together

Woodstock saw no shortage of attendees, creativity, or good music. What it did have a shortage of, though, was food. With so many more people than was expected ultimately attending the event, the festival quickly started to run out of food. When food started to dwindle, the festival goers banded together.

Photo courtesy of John “Jack” Niflot/The Museum at Bethel Woods via Reuters

They shared food and supplies among themselves and took only small enough portions to sustain themselves. There are even rumours that some people gave up their meals to the children who were attending – how sweet! This “sharing is caring” attitude epitomized the communal living culture of the ’60s and ’70s.

Already Iconic

Quick! Free association time. If you had to imagine what the average Woodstock concertgoer might have looked like, what sort of image would you come up with in your mind? Chances are, in almost too many ways to count, this smiling young couple truly fits the bill.

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That long hair, her headband, his guitar, her paisley patterns, his bellbottom blue jeans: they truly are the spirit of the ’60s encapsulated ina single shot. Come rain or shine, it looks like their joy is absolutely contagious. But why bring a guitar when you’re already being played some of the best music in existence?

Voodoo Child

The last performance at Woodstock was not only one of the most memorable performances of the festival, but indeed, of the entire history of rock ‘n roll, or even modern music itself. Guitarist Jimi Hendrix had already proven his prowess at songwriting and at showmanship. But at Woodstock, he proved he was nothing short of otherworldly.

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Hands sliding up and down the fret of his guitar, he created sounds and expressions that nobody would have previously thought were possible from an electric guitar. Most famous of all would be his take on the American national anthem, and thanks to his ferocious playing, it really did feel like there were bombs bursting in air.

No Shoes, No Worries

One of the parts of Woodstock that all attendees remember, for better or for worse, would have to be all that mud. The torrential downpour in the midst of the concert turned all that farmland into absolute slush. Shoes became useless.

Photo courtesy of State of Mind

Navigating her way through the crowds, this young woman has surrendered to the mud, realizing shoes are pointless. But at least she’s managed to keep the rest of her outfit spotless! Many other concertgoers, meanwhile, enjoyed having a good frolic in the mud.


Even though the focus of the Woodstock festival was obviously centered around its talented musical acts, there were plenty of other fun things going on. Many festival-goers took time to make crafts, put on their own performances, and make new friends.

Photo courtesy of Rowland Scherman Special Collections and University Archives/UMass Amherst Libraries

With so much going on, and so few breaks in between mindblowing musical acts, the average concertgoer must have been bombarded with options as to how to spend his or her time. This young lady seems content with just grooving.

Disaster Zone Waiting To Happen

We know that several hundred thousand is a lot of people, but it’s hard to imagine what that many people crowded into one place looks like. This is a photo of Woodstock shot looking down on the event, and from the angle, you can see just how many people were there.

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The ground is virtually a sea of people, with hardly any space available. The then-Governor of New York, Nelson Rockefeller, declared the gathering a danger zone and originally wanted to put a stop to it. In the end, he decided to send officials to Woodstock to keep the peace instead of shutting it down. It looks like a massive herd of peaceful people wouldn’t be enough to shut an entire festival down.

Paint My Ride

If there would be one vehicle that epitomizes the Woodstock Era, it would definitely have to be the VW Bus. This was the most practical choice for many young people of the ’60s, eager to join happenings and to groove with as many people as possible.

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For the Flower Children, anything could potentially be its own vehicle for self-expression, and their transport choices were no exception. This couple sits atop a VW that has been personalized with tons of symbolic imagery that they and their friends have painted on it.

Kick Off

Kicking off the festivities was Richie Havens who was then followed by Sweetwater (who was late due to traffic!). After Sweetwater, spiritual leader Sri Swami Satchidananda spoke, instilling the peace and love that was to follow in the next few days.

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The speech he gave said: “Sound energy, sound power, is much, much greater than any other power in this world. And, one thing I would very much wish you all to remember is that with sound, we can make — and at the same time, break… And with all my heart, I wish a great, great success in this music festival to pave the way for many more festivals in many other parts of this country.”

I Can See Clearly Now

Even though some of the most iconic images of Woodstock are connected to the torrential rainfall and the muddy mess that followed, here we can see a moment of perfectly blue summer skies over the brilliantly green and pastoral festival grounds.

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This group of music enthusiasts seem to have come prepared with their own decorated minibus. Better still, their vehicle seems to have provided them with an excellent vantage point to sit on, rather than joining the majority of people on the ground.

Hangin’ With The 5-0

For the short timespan of Woodstock, it seemed as though a vast swathe of social norms went out the window, and the powers that be were able to trust (for the most part) this sea of human population to manage its own affairs.

Photo courtesy of Instagram/nico_de_buzman

Wherever this sheriff was roaming about, it seems he’s got no problem leaving his car in the hands of these two happy ladies. It’s symbolic of various groups of people learning to trust one another, if only for the space of a few days.

Sister, Sister

One of the most enduring aspects of Woodstock that made it so great was its ability to include literally everyone and anyone. For instance, Max Yasgur, the dairy farmer on whose land the festival was held, had very different political views from most in attendance — and didn’t care. And there were even some religious figures in the mix!

Photo courtesy of Pinterest/Rene John Spitaels

Flashing a peace sign, this young nun is incorporating the spirit of the generation of peace and love into her own habit. She’s showing that no matter what belief system you come from, there was a space for you in the hundreds of thousands at Woodstock.

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