UPDATE 2 (7/22): The planning committee of Vernon, NY have rejected Woodstock 50 organizers for a fourth time, the Poughkeepsie Journal reports. Town of Vernon Code Enforcement Officer Reay Walker called a newly proposed safety plan “worthless” and that several key details to ensure a safe festival were lacking.
UPDATE: The planning committee of Vernon, NY has once again rejected Woodstock 50 organizers’ desperate pleas to hold their beleaguered festival in their town. “Woodstock 50 is disappointed that the Town of Vernon has passed up the opportunity to hold the historic 50th Anniversary Festival by denying our robust and thoughtful proposal,” organizers said Tuesday night. “We regret that those in Vernon who supported Woodstock have been deprived of the once-in-a-lifetime chance to be part of the rebirth of a cultural peace movement that changed the world in 1969 and is what the world needs now.”
Virgin Produced, a company that was advising festival organizers, also backed out of the festival Tuesday night. “Despite our formidable effort to assist Michael Lang and the Woodstock 50 ownership in resurrecting their NY festival, it has become apparent that time has expired,” CEO Jason Felts said in a statement. “It is imperative to us to produce an event at the highest level; in which all artists and consumers deserve. Without a venue and related permits secured, there is simply no time left to do so.”
A month from today, an official 50th anniversary celebration of Woodstock will kick off in Vernon, New York. Or will it?
More than two-and-a-half months after the festival’s original investor canceled the fest (a move a judge later overturned), Woodstock 50’s organizers are still struggling to make it happen. They have a lineup that includes both Woodstock O.G.’s (Santana, Dead and Co., Canned Heat) and fresh blood (Jay-Z, Miley Cyrus) committed, but they have not yet put tickets on sale. Their original festival site, Watkins Glen International, backed out, and now they’re trying to convince the town of Vernon, which has a population of around 1,200, to let them set up at a nearby casino, but the town has been resisting granting them permits.
On Monday night, the festival’s Michael Lang, who helped put together the original event, appeared with his colleagues at a Planning Board meeting to appeal the town to let him put on a festival. The town has twice denied Woodstock 50 permits to hold a festival there so far. Vernon officials will make their decision after a town hall set to take place tonight at 7.
“If we don’t get the decision we want, it’s something that we will then have to consider,” Lang told those gathered last night, according to Poughkeepsie Journal. “If it doesn’t work this year, it doesn’t work this year. We’ve tried everything we can. We’ve done our best. We’ll continue to do our best until we find out one way or the other whether it’s going to happen.”
Fellow Woodstock organizer Greg Peck said they were staying optimistic. “There’s no other option,” he said. “No other way to proceed, other than to be confident, determined.”
The Journal reports that about 30 locals showed up to Monday night’s public forum, some with words of support and others with worries about traffic and postal deliveries. This may all be moot, though, since Lang & Co. submitted their application for a license too late. They needed to tender it within 120 days of the start date, or April 18th — more than a week before investor Dentsu-Aegis “canceled” the festival. (Organizers wound up submitting it on Jun 18th.) “The code officer in early June told us the application was fine, accepted our fee, accepted our forms,” Peck said, according to the Journal.
The newspaper reports that a letter from the Code Enforcement Office complained of illegible pages in the filing, as well as pages marked “draft” and “still in production.”
Meanwhile, Lang & Co. have been trying to curry the favor of residents with promises of jobs, donations to local nonprofits, a new playground and VIP treatment at the festival, according to Syracuse.com. If the town continues the denial of Woodstock’s permit, the organizers could take it to the state Supreme Court. Prior to tonight’s meeting, they’re attempting to win over locals with an open house at the Vernon Downs Hotel and Casino — the proposed site for the festival — today until 1 p.m. “Refreshments will be served,” they promised.