Woodstock and Camp Woodland

October 19th, 2010

A Woodstock Playhouse program cover from August 1960, courtesy of Joe Hickerson

The Historical Society of Woodstock’s Folk Songs of the Catskills: The Spirit of Camp Woodland exhibit and related events drew hundreds of attendees this past summer. For example, on August 14 nearly 100 people attended the presentation/folk concert with Sue Rosenberg, Pat Lamanna, Joe Hickerson, Mickey Vandow and Eric Weissberg.

During the exhibit people asked about the linkage between Camp Woodland (near Phoenicia, NY) and Woodstock. As it happens, there are innumerable links. Herb Haufrecht, one of the authors of Folk Songs of the Catskills, and a Camp Woodland music counselor, lived in Shady, NY, a hamlet of Woodstock. Another connection was through Barbara Moncure, a local folk singer. She and Alf Evers (for many years the Woodstock Town Historian, and author of Woodstock: History of an American Town) used to venture over to Camp Woodland for the annual festivals. Barbara performed at them, and eventually recorded an album of Catskill Mountain songs for Folkways. In 1959, Alf organized the First Annual Catskill Mountain Folk Music Festival at the Colony Arts Center. Several Catskill Mountain folk singers like “Squire” Elwyn Davis and Harry Siemson, who had previously appeared at Camp Woodland, performed at that festival. Another instance of Camp Woodland/Woodstock linkage occurred in August 1960 when Joe Hickerson, a counselor at the camp, headlined a concert with Carolyn Hester at the Woodstock Playhouse.

Pete Seeger, a big influence at the camp, was connected to Woodstock via his wife, Toshi, who grew up in the town. Pete played at a Woodstock Playhouse concert in 1962. Funds from that concert partially financed the Woodstock Folk Festival at the Woodstock Estates in 1962. Bob Dylan arrived in town around 1963 and John Herald, a former camper, came up to Woodstock in 1965. John Cohen, a former camp counselor, played the Sound-Outs with his band the New Lost City Ramblers.

Many of these interconnections are spelled out in Roots of the 1969 Woodstock Festival, published last year by WoodstockArts.


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