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Woodstock Music Festival New York Thruway Image?

Both before and after the recent fiftieth anniversary of the Woodstock Music Festival held on August 15-18, 1969 at Max Yasgur’s 600-acre dairy farm in Bethel, New York a number of period photographs have surfaced which were taken at the event.

We are not certain that today’s lead image of parked cars was taken on the Interstate 87 section of the New York Thruway before or during Woodstock. Although one of the newest cars visible in the scene was introduced in 1968 as a 1969 model and the appearance of the vehicles and young people fit in with the period.

Before the event one of the largest traffic jams ever to happen in New York State according to news sources occurred on a number of the roads in the area and on the Thruway which at one point was backed up for over seventeen miles.

When singer-songwriter Arlo Guthrie was on stage for his set he told the concert goers that because of the Festival (sic) “the New York State Thruway is closed man.” This in fact wasn’t true but the New York State Police did block off two of the Thruway exits to ease the traffic gridlock in the immediate area surrounding the Festival.

We have also included film footage of traffic shot at Woodstock in a video (below) which can be seen between the 1:00 and 2:oo minute marks.

Share with us what you find of interest in this photo via This Was Americar.

27 responses to “Woodstock Music Festival New York Thruway Image?

  1. Apart from the Austin-Healey 3000, the only other more premium cars I see are the ’64 Olds Ninety Eight convertible in the road and a likely Bonneville convertible, also a ’64, parked across the way. While more premium, that’s not to say they would’ve been the most appealing to the Woodstock crowd.

  2. The New York State Thruway is not and never was a freeway. It has been a toll road from the beginning despite the promises of the politicians at the time that tolls would end once the original construction bonds were paid off (around 1990).

  3. Hey, that’s my 61 VW bus. Well, maybe not, since I was never at Woodstock. Although I don’t remember much of the 1960’s, except I know I was at a party. So, could have been.

  4. At this point, it’s a divided, three-lane highway, and it looks to me like the small white sign behind the Pontiac and the van says “Jnc 17.” And given that right-angle approach street in the background, I think this would be just north of the Woodbury exit. I’d check Google Street View — that rock outcropping should still be there — but I’m on a satellite connection, and it’s very slow to load.

  5. I had a 1961 Austin Healey 3000 – fun car. Constantly fiddling with the Lucas fuel pump (No Doc, not a Lucas pacemaker!) Most accurate fuel gauge ever (Smith) — when the needle hit zero, the engine sputtered and died.

  6. 50 years already? sigh, yeah Woodstock was a defining moment in many of our lives. While I was still in HS, it sent shock waves across the country.( that I picked up later) Looking at the cars, certainly low buck transportation, and I bet van rentals went through the roof. I heard it was a pig sty after it rained. At .11 seconds, I believe the tractor is a Cockshutt and at 1:51, it looks like a Hasidic Jew directing traffic. Interesting note, Bethel is located west of NYC in an area called “The Jewish Alps”. or “The Borscht Belt”. A large group of Orthodox Jews moved west from NYC and settled this area. They don’t drive, and live in big communes. I was surprised when I visited Woodstock, the city, ( about 100 miles north of the NYC) while it is a huge old hippie community, there is no mention of the festival. Many famous recording artists called it home, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, David Bowie, (whose mansion location is still a secret) Jimi Hendrix, Santana, and many more. I heard, it was supposed be held in the city of Woodstock, but at the last minute, the city backed out, and it was too late to change the name. FAR OUT, MAN,,

    • The actual event was in Bethel. My brother now lives in Lake Huntington about 7 miles west and I recognize the terrain and the road in the video. There is an old synagogue in Lake Huntington along with a number of disused resort hotels. The road is 17B which I assume is a state highway. The festival site is about 8 miles from 17 which is 4 lane limited access. I assume all the people from those parked cars on 17 had to walk the distance to the festival. That would be a 2-3 hour walk!! There is now a permanent concert venue at the festival site – Bethel Woods. Last time I drove past a few years ago they had Blondie on the marquee!

    • This is a great story. I was a little young, after seeing the mess glad I did not go. Oh well back then I would have had youth on my side. I am sure I would have survived! Hey Howard, please do not give up on the other site. Do not let a couple of knucle heads throw you. There are far more people that enjoy your comments! Have a great weeked, Mike.

  7. A motley bunch of cars for sure, but the 1961 Oldsmobile on the side of the road behind the Chevy II wagon looks like it has been through a demo derby.

    • I was still driving in New York State in the 1980’s. They didn’t have rust-through laws. As long as the frame was sound, the body could be lacework.

  8. I see a couple ’69 Camaros, one a convertible, one 67,68 Camaro, ‘ 65 or newer Corvair, and what looks like a Morris 1300 (?) Or Austin America behind the VW s one the side of the road. Maybe a Jeepster above the Olds on the road, behind the ’53 or so Ford F100?

  9. Being one of the older guys watching this site, I remember this very well..one of our contemporaries…a 25 year old went and didn’t show up to work for a week. He had a memory loss of several days and lost track of the friends he went there with. Managed to get rides to get home after several days. Just like me, he was an aircraft electrician, so the world was safer for those extra days. Me , I was 31 years old with kids..no chance for me to go.

  10. That weekend, I was 12yo, my father was between jobs and picked up some work driving a 5T Chevy stake body with a load of bias ply tire “carcasses” to take to Danville, Va.. to recap. I went along for the ride. This was from Toronto, so we went through Buffalo, and down the Thruway. This would have been early morning (2-4AM?), the road was busy with funky old vans, converted campers etc., I thought nothing of it. We had the radio on because of the rain happening in case of road closures from mudslides, pre-Interstate, and every hour, on the hour, “Meanwhile, in Upstate New York”, the story unfolded. Went to Wendell Scott’s house to meet him, he wasn’t home. So drove back Sunday on the same route, and hit the busy Thruway. Stopped at the roadside restaurant to eat and the waitress asked if some others could sit with us, as they were so busy. No problem. So, I remember where I was that weekend. Still wish I had met Mt. Scott.

  11. On August 16 (Saturday) I drove Route 17 through the area on the way to Mongaup Pond State Park; our first day of a vacation to upstate New York. The park is just 25 miles from the Festival site. The scene is about what we saw as we drove there. The park super was not letting anyone in, with a “No Vacancy” sign displayed at the gate.
    In our 1963 VW Van (and me with a beard) we were a little suspect but after inspecting us carefully and finding three pre-teen children, a 70 year old lady and a thirty something couple (my wife and I) and obvious camping gear, he suggested that someone had just pulled out on Loop 3. When we got there it was half empty!
    That’s my Woodstock story and I’m sticking to it.

  12. The Chevy Greenbriar has “Bonnie & Clyde” stenciled below the windshield. Pretty buff dude to the right — from the Barrow Gang?

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