The Woodstock 50th anniversary festival has been officially cancelled following a series of difficulties surrounding the planning and funding of the event. Over the past few months the festival and those planning it have gone to court, lost performers and lost venues; now culminating in the festival being cancelled for good. The organizers, headed by Michael Lang, had been struggling to find a venue these past few weeks and the pressure of the approaching deadlines caused various artists to begin dropping out of the event. Woodstock 50 was supposed to be held from August 16-18, just a few weeks away.
The festival’s issues began earlier this year when the organizers took one of the event’s former investors to court. The company, Dentsu, was accused of illegally withdrawing funds from the event when they wished to back away from the project. In the end, the courts sided with Dentsu, ruling that they had done nothing wrong. The lack of funding then caused a larger series of issues for the organizers, who now had no way to make payments needed to plan Woodstock 50.
In June, Woodstock lost the venue it had originally reserved after missing the deadline of a large payment. The payment was to reserve the Watkins Glen International Speedway to hold the music festival, the organizer’s first choice for venue. Originally, Woodstock 50 was supposed to pay Watkins Glen $150,000 in May, but the organizers never made the payment due to legal and financial troubles at the time. Because of this, the speedway backed out of Woodstock 50, leaving the festival to find a new location with only a few months before it was to take place.
The next venue that Lang and the organizers attempted to secure was Vernon Downs Park in Utica, New York. Woodstock 50 immediately encountered obstacles in this, however, due to their application for a permit being denied. A county representative stated that their application was too disorganized and did not meet the standards that were established. The organizers then tried again to apply for a permit and were denied a second time. Following this, some of the events major acts began to drop out of the festival. Headlining acts, including Jay-Z and Dead & Company, had dropped out in the past few weeks. Following even more performers announcing they would no longer be attending, the organizers have decided to simply fully cancel the festival.
In a statement made about the cancellation, Michael Lang wrote: “We are saddened that a series of unforeseen setbacks has made it impossible to put on the Festival we imagined with the great line-up we had booked and the social engagement we were anticipating. When we lost the Glen and then Vernon Downs we looked for a way to do some good rather than just cancel. We formed a collaboration with HeadCount to do a smaller event at the Merriweather Pavilion to raise funds for them to get out the vote and for certain NGOs involved in fighting climate change. We released all the talent so any involvement on their part would be voluntary. Due to conflicting radius issues in the DC area many acts were unable to participate and others passed for their own reasons. I would like to encourage artists and agents, who all have been fully paid, to donate 10% of their fees to HeadCount or causes of their choice in the spirit of peace. Woodstock remains committed to social change and will continue to be active in support of HeadCount’s critical mission to get out the vote before the next election. We thank the artists, fans and partners who stood by us even in the face of adversity. My thoughts turn to Bethel and its celebration of our 50th Anniversary to reinforce the values of compassion, human dignity, and the beauty of our differences embraced by Woodstock.”