June 6, 2016

It was Memorial Day weekend. According to the forecast the weather would be unpredictable. We didn’t care. We were headed upstate to spend the long holiday weekend with friends in an old farm house sitting in the middle of a densely wooded area near the Delaware Gap. Not much was planned. Fun and relaxation was the goal.#1Our hosts, however, were quite occupied with the potential demolition of an old shed in their backyard. A new shed was arriving in a couple of weeks and this old thing had to be removed to make room for the new one. This tumbled-down shed had served it’s purpose for many years. Trees now grew around it while vines and berry bushes crept along the rotting boards. #2The first day of our visit, heavy storm clouds rumbled across the mountains. Rain poured down in buckets. Thunder rattled a few dishes in the cupboards. The sky darkened. The cat scurried under an easy chair in the living room while a fresh pot of coffee was set to brew.

In this bad weather, our hosts were in no hurry to get started with the dirty job of knocking down the shed and they asked, “Have you seen the Bethel Woods Center For The Arts?”

We hadn’t. Though some years earlier they’d taken us to visit the area where we attend a huge autumn festival. Since then we heard about some major changes but so far we hadn’t seen any of the new construction.

Bethel, only a half hour drive from their house, was the actual location of the Woodstock Festival in August 1969.  The event was billed as: An Aquarian Exposition, 3 Days of Peace and Love. It was held on Max Yasgur’s dairy farm. There would be 32 acts, and though the promoters expected 200,000 attendees, nearly 500,000 people showed up. This event would turn out to be a definitive moment in popular music history, as well as a pivotal nexus for the larger counterculture generation. Creedence Clearwater Revival was the first group to sign a contract for the event. Once other performers got wind of this signing, major musicians signed on, too.#4This is what the Woodstock Festival site looks like today. The original location of this extraordinary musical event is only a two hour drive from Manhattan. The roads in this area are mostly two lanes which caused major traffic jams, consequently the performers had to be brought to the concert by helicopter.

Bethel is a small rural community. According to the 2010 census it has a population of 4,255. Back in the ’60’s it might have even been less. The area is known as the Borscht Belt in the Catskills and for many years was famous for the large number of summer bungalow colonies. Most of these old resorts are now closed.  #6In 1996, the Yasgar’s 37 acre dairy farm and hundreds of acres surrounding the farm were purchased by Alan Gerry, a philanthropist with a vision of turning the area into a world-class performing arts center. The Pavilion amphitheater at what is now called Bethel Woods, a $150 million dollar construction, was completed July 4, 2006. Since then the New York Philharmonic, Bob Dylan, The Eagles, James Taylor, Elton John and Jimmy Buffet, just to name a few, have performed at this theater.#7Unlike the days when everyone brought their own seating or blankets to sit on, the Woodstock Bethel Woods venue now offers lawn chairs to rent during a concert. This tented area has hundreds and hundreds of chairs that are available for the concert goers. #8A short walk from the Pavilion is the Conservatory that accommodates planned educational and outreach programs for youths and teens. The Conservatory also has a gift shop, a small cafe and an indoor rotunda where various events are hosted throughout the year. There is a smaller outdoor theater-in-the-round in back of the Conservatory.

And yes, there is even a museum stuffed with all kinds of memorabilia and photographs from the Woodstock era.#9The grounds of the Bethel Woods are lovely with ponds, fountains and paths that wind through a beautifully manicured forest area. Anyone who attended the original Woodstock would not recognize this area today. It is completely transformed.

In 2012, Bethel Woods transitioned from a project of the Gerry Foundation to its own 501(c) (3) public charity governed by an independent board of trustees with Mr. Gerry serving as the Chairman of the Board.
#3Needless to say that after doing so much walking and touring it was time for a bit of refreshment. And what would be more perfect than a tasting at the local distillery. #11This is a very busy distillery that produces vodka, gin, bourbon, whisky and grapa.#10The Peace-Vodka was really quite lovely. I am partial to this distilled beverage and prefer my martini up and very dry. This tasting was quite delicious.#12Hmmm, it’s a good thing we had a designated driver.#15Now that the playing and touring was over with, it was time to get down to the serious business of demolition. The old shed, after all was not going to disassemble itself. So Mike and David, a neighbor, after a bit of examination of the shed’s basic structure, took up sledge hammer and crowbar to begin the dirty task.#16The old shed didn’t seem to have much resistance. The nails were rusting, the wood rotting and it looked like the poor old thing was more than ready to be taken down. The storms had all passed. The sunshine was brilliant and the day turned beastly hot. But by supper time, there was no more shed. We fired up the grill, threw on some corn on the cob, a mess of chicken legs and sat back to admire the empty space and to toast the workers.#17The job only took a half day to complete. In the evening, except for the pile of firewood, a ladder and the conical tree, the area had a mysteriously empty feel to it. We had looked at that old shed for years. It had character. It even had a few critters living amongst the debris that had been gathered over the years. The little field mice and chipmunks would now have to find another home. Yes, indeed this is an empty space.


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  1. ssermoneta on June 6, 2016 at 9:23 am

    As always, I love reading your blogs. I look forward to seeing pictures when the new shed is in place. And I wonder, how long will it take until a new set of critters moves in. Maybe some of the old ones will, like Bob Dylan, return.

    • Pushing Time on June 6, 2016 at 9:33 am

      Hello Susan, Always great to hear from you and to learn that you enjoyed one of my blog posts. I don’t think it will take long before the woodland critters will settle in to this new shed. Yes, like Boy Dylan, they will return. Thanks for the lovely comment.

  2. Susan on June 6, 2016 at 11:50 am

    What a great trip. You make us feel like we are there with you. Woodstock was the year before I graduated. On farmer had a mini Woodstock in Ridgefield, Washington that the locals attended. That was a very different time.

    • Pushing Time on June 6, 2016 at 12:07 pm

      Hi Susan. Yes, those were different times, indeed! I’m so glad you enjoyed the trip sort of back in time! I guess Ridgefield wasn’t such a hay seed town after all. Lots of hip folks hanging out on those of berry, bean and dairy farms!! Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment. Perhaps I’ll have to take a trip out west soon to have a sister visit. Miss you.

  3. Jean Brovero on June 6, 2016 at 3:28 pm

    Enjoyed reading this, and seeing the photos. My sister was running a camp program at a neighboring farm during Woodstock – don’t think she would recognize Yasgur’s place now!

    • Pushing Time on June 6, 2016 at 5:18 pm

      Hi Jean, No I don’t think she would recognize the place today. But it is a lovely preserved piece of land. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  4. jeri on June 7, 2016 at 1:59 pm

    Lovely – there was a real feeling of peace in that “empty space.” It’s hard to imagine so many people in those rolling green hills. Thanks for the wonderful update.

    • Pushing Time on June 7, 2016 at 3:38 pm

      Hi Jeri, Yes, it is hard to imagine all those people in this very rural area. It must have been a real mess. And it was so interesting to see that one man (a guy with lots of bucks) has preserved the area and is even making this little part of the ‘world a better place’ because of all that he is contributing. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  5. Joyce on June 8, 2016 at 12:48 pm

    Nostalgia! There was an old woodshed in my childhood in my back yard that resembled the gone one in your photo. Sad to replace the old with the new, but necessary for usefulness. I lived in an old abandoned bungalow colony in the Catskills in the early 79’s, just down the road from Yasgur’s farm. Gil had tickets to Woodstock but decided to stay home after hearing the weather report. He shoulda kept the tickets and sold them on Ebay! I love your photo of the pond and reflections; love the photo of the rain-spattered window!

    • Pushing Time on June 8, 2016 at 9:19 pm

      Hi Joyce! Yes, nostalgia! Though I was in CA during those days so going to Woodstock was totally out of the question. But you have quite an interesting connection! And the shed, what a great story. Some of the bungalow colonies are being purchased and set up as condo kind of country living. By the way there was a lovely birds nest in that rhododendron bush in that rain splattered window. I tried to take a photo of it, but it was just too hidden and didn’t turn out well at all. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.