News Report: Woodstock Peace March

Sunday Aug. 15, 1999 -- Here in Bethel, N.Y., about a hundred people marched the 3 miles from Yasgur's Barn to the Woodstock Festival monument. Colorfully dressed folks waved small American flags as they casually marched to several drums. The procession even included a rickshaw-like carriage. The Peace Parade and ceremonies at the monument would celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Woodstock Festival and the 60s era it came from. From Route 17B marchers were carefully escorted by N.Y. State Police as they approached the festival site.

Arriving at the monument however, police physically barricaded the entrance to a separate fence enclosure surrounding the monument. State Police explained they were only acting on the orders of the Day-in-the-garden concert management: No persons admitted to the monument area without a concert ticket. The Festival monument, long a dream, was solely the creation of people who loved Woodstock. To be barred from their own monument by our state police in a corporate takeover of an historic site seemed bitter irony to some. And they said so!

Withal, holding hands the celebrants formed a circle in the parking area adjacent to the monument. Humming the "aum" they prayed in unison for the beauty of existence. A petition signed by 621 persons was delivered to the corporate chief of operations. It basically urged them to cease and desist from developing the festival site and defaming the cultural legacy of Woodstock. For an hour individuals variously spoke of the meaning of Woodstock and even, forgiveness for those who exploit the popular legacy of "caring and sharing in Peace and Love". Celebrants passed a small stone (with a natural peace sign) around the circle. Holding it, each person spoke briefly from the heart. Often these tributes were in the form of prayers: for ourselves, for the Earth, for those who fear the freedom and fun that is Woodstock, for those who steal a cultural symbol and sell it back as another product.

After an hour the celebrants collected dozens of American flags they carried. The flags, a garland of wildflowers and other small offerings (including a pair of unused tickets) were all woven together. Police permitted a young lady to enter the monument enclosure to place these offerings. Re-forming their circle the celebrants held hands, all hummed an "aum." Then they raised their hands, cheered and left. The circle unwound and folks returned to the popular festivities in progress at Max Yasgur's old Barn. In two minutes they (and police escort) were gone, leaving a curious vacuum and lingering questions about who we have become.

Will Callaghan