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Exclusive: Documents Reveal Strange Details About Canceled Woodstock 50

VICE obtained the festival's official set times, a list of banned items, and massive bills for Narcan and porta-potties.

by Drew Schwartz
Aug 27 2019, 6:31pm

Woodstock photo via Wikimedia Commons

About a month after Woodstock 50 was officially canceled, VICE obtained internal documents that detail what it might've been like to attend the festival, including a breakdown of the tentative performance schedule, which organizers hoped would feature a set from Kacey Musgraves.

Woodstock 50 was set to be held at Vernon Downs, a horse racing track in upstate New York, from August 16-18, 50 years to the day after the original festival took place. Organizers put together a bill that paired acts who played the original Woodstock in '69, like David Crosby and Canned Heat, with current, big-name artists like Jay-Z, The Killers, Miley Cyrus, and Imagine Dragons—spending $23 million on talent alone, Woodstock 50 organizer Greg Peck told VICE. Peck said there are currently no plans to attempt to recoup that money, which largely came from Woodstock's biggest investor, Dentsu Aegis, before it pulled out of the event.

An hour-by-hour schedule of the festival's lineup that VICE obtained shows the performances would've been spread across four stages, and—though this was never announced—could have included a headlining set from Kacey Musgraves, Kings of Leon, The Black Crowes, or Beck. "We really wanted Kacey Musgraves," another Woodstock 50 organizer, Susan Cronin, told VICE—but ultimately, plans to book her fell through.

Woodstock 50 set times

The schedule was buried in Woodstock 50's "Public Safety Plan," which VICE acquired through a Freedom of Information Law request to the town of Vernon. The plan included a few strange tidbits. One was a list of "prohibited items" concertgoers wouldn't be allowed to bring onto festival grounds. Along with expected no-nos like drugs and alcohol, the list outlawed "chairs" and other "seating devices," "yard games, glow sticks, marker pens, and inflatables," "flags on sticks or poles," "umbrellas," and "throwing objects," whatever that means.

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The plan also contained a few surprising invoices. Organizers purchased roughly $28,000 worth of Narcan, a drug used to revive people who overdose on heroin, fentanyl, or other opioids. Cronin said they bought the medication at the urging of the Oneida County Sheriff's Office, which told them there was a significant problem with opioid overdoses in the area. She added that the amount they purchased was "much bigger than what the industry standard would be."

“We opted to do that for the local law enforcement agency," Cronin said. "And the intention was that we would donate all of the unused supply to local law enforcement."

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Woodstock 50 also planned to spend a hefty amount of money on porta-potties. The Public Safety Plan contains a quote from United Site Services, which bills itself as "the nation's leading provider of porta potty rentals," for just over $457,000. That would've left the festival with about 700 toilets. Most waste companies recommend having at least one porta-potty for every 100 guests. If Woodstock 50 had managed to draw the 62 to 65,000-person crowd it was anticipating, that breaks down to roughly one stall for every 90 attendees.

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Ultimately, Cronin said, Woodstock 50 never had a chance to place the order. The festival was called off after a series of increasingly debilitating mishaps that came to a head on April 29, when Dentsu Aegis pulled its funding and announced that Woodstock 50 was canceled. Organizers insisted that the show would still go on; they took Dentsu to court, and a judge ruled that the investor didn't have the right to unilaterally shut down the festival, though it could keep its money.

Dentsu's announcement, however, proved fatal. Woodstock's first-choice venue in Watkins Glen withdrew its offer to host the festival. Organizers scrambled to move it to Vernon, but the town repeatedly denied Woodstock's application to be held there. After a last-ditch attempt to put on a smaller, free event at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Maryland, organizers announced that Woodstock 50 was officially canceled.

Michael Lang, who put together the original Woodstock and helmed the 50-year anniversary festival alongside Cronin and Peck, told Rolling Stone he's still considering “multiple events around the country during the coming year," though it's unclear what those might be.

"We have ideas," Peck told VICE. "We believe that we were robbed of an opportunity in August. We’d like to do something, but we’re not ready to make any announcements."

Additional reporting by Tim Marchman.

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Tagged:
Festivals
music festivals
Kacey Musgraves
Woodstock
michael lang
woodstock 50
greg peck
susan cronin