Northern Michigan Man Looks Back on Woodstock on 50th Anniversary
50 years ago pop culture was changed forever.
400,000 people from across the world made the pilgrimage to the small farm town of Bethel, New York for three days of “peace and music.”
32 acts graced the stage, including the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Santana and Jefferson Airplane.
Jerry Brabant, of Roscommon, was there to see it all. Brabant is a retired lawyer in Roscommon. He says he made the voyage out to Woodstock with his buddies from high school.
“I had just turned 22 that summer [and I read] that there was going to be this concert in New York,” said Brabant. “I said, we ought to do this! We’re either going to graduate or go in the service somethings going to happen here.”
Brabant and his friends packed up their car with camping supplies and a little bit of food. They made their way through Canada to get there, and evaded the legendary traffic that stalled cars for miles near the festival.
“They couldn’t get any of the performers there because the roads were blocked,” said Brabant. “There was just a sea of people, it was incredible.”
Brabant didn’t expect so many people to be there. That crowding created a few problems, well documented at the time by media outlets across the country. The press focused on the state of apparent chaos, lack of food at the concert, shoddy campsites and washout weather that created a muddy mess.
“There was food initially but that didn’t last very long,” said Brabant. “We were a wreck. The car was covered in mud, we were covered in mud.”
But Woodstock was Brabant’s last moment of freedom before he got home to some news from his mother.
“I said ‘you don’t look very happy.’ And she goes, ‘Well you’re going in the army in about nine days.’ I said ‘what?!’” said Brabant. “It was an interesting time, that’s for sure.”
He was shipped to training at Fort Knox and later sent to war in Vietnam, where he served for ten months.
“The war was going full blast in Vietnam,” said Brabant. “I think maybe that’s why [Woodstock] resonated so much.”
Looking back, Brabant says Woodstock offered a rare glimpse of humans in harmony.
“I didn’t see any negative anything,” said Brabant. “It’s pretty hard to get a group of people on this planet together without them killing each other frankly. That in it of itself was pretty stunning.”