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Woodstock '99
Three days of peace, love and missing persons
woodstock crowd
Creed performs on the main stage,
designed in tie-dye colors.

SEE ALSO
Pop Culture 101: TV writers couldn't hide their disgust
Whizstock: I survived Woodstock 99
By Jessica Turco

A sea of bodies colored miles of open fields. Naked or clothed, tripping, drunk or sober, they gathered together in Rome, N.Y., to let go, listen to wide-ranging tunes from various bands and to relive an almost indescribable peace of history.

"It was three days to get away, meet new friends and show your love for human society. Three days where you don't have to hate people, where if a stranger walks up to you, you give him a beer and just hang out," said 19-year-old Rich Wilson from Pine Hill, N.J.

Wilson said he and his friends, on returning from the great pilgrimage, were talking about how impossible it would be to describe their experience at Woodstock to people who didn't go.

"We were saying that we took in so much in the last three days ... maybe more than in a lifetime," he said. "It's almost indescribable."

But Wilson's deep voice, groggy from partying for four days straight, had an extremely mellow tone that his words illustratively floated upon.

"It was being surrounded by people that aren't uptight and worried about the 'right things' in society. If you want to be naked, you are naked, if you want to be tripping, you are. You just feel free from everything."

According to Wilson and other Woodstockers, the crowd was friendly and tranquil, despite fires that broke out as Day Three of the 300,000-person party wound down. Under-fed, under-rested and over-drugged, a small group ignited the first fire around 9 p.m. on Sunday when speakers kept cutting out, according to sources at the site.

They said it began with a small group dancing around a fire. But the fire spread and the crowd of participants grew to a total of maybe 1,000 people who didn't reflect the attitude of the majority. Observers withdrew and voiced disapproval.

"Everybody was just walking by calling them a------s. I guess there's always gotta be a few no matter where you go," said Wilson. The fires showed that some people didn't understand what Woodstock was all about, he said.

Dancing naked at Woodstock '99
Nudity was common at Woodstock; fans bared all as Bush performed.

As far as any generation differences from the original event to this one that may have caused the violent outburst, Wilson said the music was heavier this year. That on top of alcohol set a more intense mood, and some people got out of control, he said.

Sheri Dawson, originally from Rome, N.Y., has seen both events. "I attended the original Woodstock when I was 10 years old. All I remember is a lot of mud. It was very muddy. Now, I'm working at Woodstock '99 as a ticket taker. This will be much more memorable," she said.

Similar or not to the original, drugs were plentiful this year: from heroin to more commonly used acid and ecstasy, they were readily available and sold quietly by word-of-mouth or more openly by people holding huge signs.

Edward Torres, 19, said to his dismay, he wasn't comatose at Woodstock '99. The best part was the music, drugs and alcohol, he said, "But the stages should be closer and there needs to be more shaded areas."

The mercury hit highs in the 90s in New York over the Woodstock reunion weekend, intensifying the effects of drugs, alcohol and crowd-generated heat.

The 900 volunteers from the Family of Woodstock carried on the tradition of The Hog Farm of '69. They were the sober hands that caught thousands of heat-exhausted youth and adults, as well as comforted the injured and the lost.

There were more than 2,000 injuries, from broken ankles to banged-up necks and bleeding heads, said Susan Goldman, team leader for development from the Family of Woodstock.

More frightening was tracking and dealing with around 2,000 missing people over the three days. A large number of those, according to Goldman, were children under the age of 16 who were lost for up to 12 to 18 hours. The youngest person lost was 9 years old, she said.

"There are a lot of negligent parents out there," she said. One parent lost track of an 11-year-old child who joined a mosh pit that formed during Limp Bizkit's performance, Goldman said.

Overall, Goldman said the crowd was extremely peaceful and none of the injuries were related to violence. There were 37 arrests over the three days, with charges ranging from arson to disorderly conduct.

Wilson said he and his friends had an incredible experience and would do it again.

"It was a fun time except the heat and the Port-o-Potties," said Julie Brady from Warwick, N.Y. Brady said her favorite bands were Bush, Dave Matthews Band, Live, Creed, Jewel, and Limp Bizkit and said as an overall view, "The people were crazy but they didn't bother anyone, they did their own thing," adding, "Nude people rock!"

Kathleen Turco contributed to this report.


7/26/99


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