Music Under the Moon

January 29th, 2018

Road to the old farmstead, site of many Woodstock festivals

No one had ever seen so many cars inching their way along the normally quiet country roads. Certainly not the deputy sent out by the county sheriff to impose some order on the tangled traffic. Everyone seemed to be heading in the same direction, descending upon an old farmstead where the sounds of music and high spirits were already echoing across the meadows. It was apparent that a major event was in progress, though the real significance of this joyous gathering in the boondocks of rural New York State would not be clear until much later. . . .

If this description conjures up images of “Woodstock, 1969,” you’re on the right track. Woodstock it was, but the actual year was 1938 and the epic musicale generating all the excitement was a fundraiser to benefit the Woodstock Art Gallery. At the center of this late afternoon costume party, that lasted until the full moon set just before dawn the next morning, were two of Woodstock’s most loveable eccentrics, Wilna Hervey and Nan Mason. Actresses, artists, erstwhile farmers, and life partners, Wilna and Nan were also among the Woodstock community’s best-known and most exuberant party hostesses. While this early September costume “picnic” was the largest and most ambitious soiree they’d ever thrown, it was far from their first. And it certainly wouldn’t be their last. Wilna and Nan’s first Full Moon party would, in fact, become an annual event for more than two decades and enter into Woodstock legend.

Wilna (far right) and Nan (second right) at the Maverick Festival, 1924

Staging big fundraising bashes under a full moon, with lots of music and rivers of free-flowing liquor, was already a well-established Woodstock tradition when Wilna and Nan embraced it as their own in 1938. As far back as 1915, Woodstock’s fabled series of annual Maverick Festivals had begun when Hervey White, the “first hippie” and one of the art colony’s founders, hosted the first such event to raise money to dig a well. White’s colorful costumed Maverick Festivals continued every year until 1931, by which time they had grown in size and popularity (and notoriety) to such an extent that the local authorities deemed it prudent to shut them down. None were more crestfallen to see their beloved Maverick Festivals come to an end than Wilna Hervey and Nan Mason, who had attended their first festival as a couple in 1924, wearing their signature clown costumes, and never missed any of the subsequent events. So, when the two women decided to entertain their friends and neighbors with a large open-air costume party on the grounds of their farm in late summer 1938, they did so as much with the intention of reviving a popular Woodstock institution as raising money for the local art gallery. The large and enthusiastic turnout they got that summer not only showed they were not alone in missing the old Maverick Festivals but guaranteed that the Full Moon Party would be back for an encore, again and again. Read the rest of this entry »

Roots of Woodstock Book Event and Concert

July 31st, 2014
FishCastle in concert

FishCastle in concert

On August 9, at 7 p.m., join Weston Blelock, author of Roots of the 1969 Woodstock Festival: The Backstory to “Woodstock,” for a talk and book signing at the Inquiring Mind Bookstore and Cafe. Blelock will discuss the events—including the Sound-Out Music Festivals in Saugerties—that inspired Michael Lang’s Woodstock Festival of 1969. Also on the bill are FishCastle, a lively folk duoCyril Caster and Catherine Selin, from Landenberg, PA. Caster is a past producer of the Sound-Outs and has played and recorded with Big Joe Williams, Allen Ginsberg, Elvin Jones, Pete Seeger, David Blue and Nico. His singing partner, Catherine has performed with numerous choirs here and abroad. In 2006 she won the Virginia Harp Center Challenge for composition.  The group play multiple instruments and are known for their diverse sound. Fans liken their music to the sounds of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Van Morrison and Neil Young. The Inquiring Mind Bookstore is at the corner of Partition and Main Streets in Saugerties. The event is free and open to the public. For more info call 845-246-5775, visit www.woodstockarts.com or link to FishCastle Music on Facebook.

 

Roots of Woodstock: Earth Day Report

April 19th, 2013
One of Two Roots of Woodstock Bike Racks

One of Two Roots of Woodstock Bike Racks

As Woodstock gets ready to celebrate Earth Day on Monday, April 22, we wanted to recap some local environmental milestones.

In 2003 the Woodstock Environmental Commission (WEC) procured a New York State Energy Research Development Agency grant covering eighty percent of the project cost of a photo-voltaic panel array for the municipal building at 76 Tinker Street. On March 13, 2007, the Town of Woodstock unanimously passed a Zero-Carbon Initiative. The goal was to achieve a net zero emission of carbon dioxide by the end of 2017.

In 2009 the Roots of Woodstock Live Concert was held on August 15 at the Bearsville Theater. This 40th anniversary Woodstock festival concert also raised money via an Eco Raffle. The monies raised enabled the concert promoters to purchase two bright red bicycle-shaped Dero bike racks. One was placed in front of Houst’s on Mill Hill Road and the other in front of the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce and Arts booth on Rock City Road.

Also in 2009 the WEC produced The Green Guide, a 39-page handout, detailing ways Woodstockers can lower their eco-footprint. In June 2011 the town installed a solar array atop the Woodstock Highway Garage. The town currently generates over five percent of its electricity needs from solar arrays. Woodstock is continuing to work on a plan to reach its net zero emission goal by 2017.

 

An Air of Magic

December 23rd, 2009
Ellen McIlwaine @ the Roots of Woodstock concert

Ellen McIlwaine @ the Roots of Woodstock concert

“An Air of Magic—Roots of the 1969 Woodstock Festival: The Backstory to “Woodstock,” an article by David Bouton that appears in the winter 2009 issue of Kaatskill Life, offers a great review of the Roots book and concert. Bouton begins with, “[The festival] happened here in the Catskill Mountains. It did not take place at Berkeley, or in the Golden Gate Park near San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury. The historic, famous, somewhat spontaneous Woodstock peace, music and arts festival of 1969 in the Catskills was not a fluke either in its nature or its location. Yes, the event eventually was held in Bethel, NY, 70 miles away, but the festival is and forever will be called “Woodstock,” reflecting its origins, its geographical location, its nature, and inherent outlook and attitude: that of the community of Woodstock, NY.”

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