As the snaking line of cars inched its way through the heart of
downtown Rome, N.Y., Thursday evening, it was hard to imagine the
Romans knew what they were in for.| The first 60,000 of a projected
300,000 concert-goers (radio reports have estimated as high as a
million) had made their way to the site of Woodstock ’99. Spirits
were running high, even as delays made it seem like they might
never make it to the event.
Route 46, the main road to the decommissioned Griffiss Air Force
Base concert site, had taken on a parade route vibe, with residents
of this sleepy upstate New York hamlet (home to the World Series of
Bocce) waving, flashing peace signs and excitedly hollering at the
seemingly endless procession of cars headed through town.
Traffic moved at a crawl throughout the night and into the early
hours of the morning, as cars carrying droves of kids from
locations as far-flung as Florida, Ontario and Michigan attempted
to reach the base. But despite the long wait, those who were
concert-bound — a throng of kids whose median age seemed to be
around nineteen — seemed unfazed, and they happily shouted back at
the Rome locals as the sounds of some of the coming event’s
performers poured from their car stereos.
The scene at ground zero — the dauntingly large Griffiss Park —
was much the same, with kids retaining remarkable composure in the
face of the utter chaos that already seemed to be taking hold.
Hardly anyone, including event employees equipped with flashlights
and a vague appearance of authority knew where to go or how to get
The official festivities began at noon today with a set from
last-minute festival add James Brown, but the weekend’s music got
rolling last night with a concert featuring George Clinton and the
P-Funk All Stars. A two-hour-long set drew a large crowd, and even
after it ended around 12:30 a.m., people continued to mill around
for hours. Around 1 a.m., a huge assemblage gathered to try and
beat the Guinness Book World Record for most frisbees
simultaneously in the air, making the sky nearly as littered with
yellow promotional discs as the ground already was with pizza
boxes, soda cans and tired kids.
Of course, it’s only the beginning. As the traffic snarled to
increasingly stupefying heights, technicians tested the monstrous
lighting rigs and laser shows and campers struggled in darkness to
set up their temporary homes, the night was pregnant with
expectation. The next sixty hours remain to prove whether the much
ballyhooed thirtieth anniversary lives up to its pedigree.