Max Yasgur

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Max Yasgur
Max yasgur.jpg
Max Yasgur at the Woodstock Festival in 1969 held on part of his dairy farm in Bethel, New York
Born(1919-12-15)15 December 1919
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died9 February 1973(1973-02-09) (aged 53)
Marathon, Florida, U.S.
ResidenceBethel, New York, U.S.
Alma materNew York University
OccupationFarmer
Known forLeasing a field of his farm for the purpose of holding the Woodstock Festival
Political partyRepublican[citation needed]
ChildrenSam Yasgur
 
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Max Yasgur
Max yasgur.jpg
Max Yasgur at the Woodstock Festival in 1969 held on part of his dairy farm in Bethel, New York
Born(1919-12-15)15 December 1919
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died9 February 1973(1973-02-09) (aged 53)
Marathon, Florida, U.S.
ResidenceBethel, New York, U.S.
Alma materNew York University
OccupationFarmer
Known forLeasing a field of his farm for the purpose of holding the Woodstock Festival
Political partyRepublican[citation needed]
ChildrenSam Yasgur

Max B. Yasgur (December 15, 1919 – February 9, 1973) was an American farmer, best known as the owner of the dairy farm in Bethel, New York at which the Woodstock Music and Art Fair was held between August 15 and August 18, 1969.

Personal life and dairy farming[edit]

Yasgur was born in New York City to Russian Jewish immigrants Samuel and Bella Yasgur.[1] He was raised on the family's farm and attended New York University, studying real estate law. By the late 1960s, he was the largest milk producer in Sullivan County, New York.[2] His farm had 650 cows, mostly Guernseys.[3]

At the time of the festival in 1969, Yasgur was married and had a son and daughter. His son, Sam Yasgur, was an assistant district attorney in Manhattan at the time of Woodstock.

Woodstock Festival[edit]

After area villages Saugerties (located about 40 miles (64 km) from Yasgur's farm) and Wallkill declined to provide a venue for the festival, Yasgur leased one of his farm's fields for a fee that festival sponsors said was $10,000.[3] Soon afterward he began to receive both threatening and supporting phone calls.[4] Some of the calls threatened to burn him out. However, the helpful calls outnumbered the threatening ones.[3] Opposition to the festival began soon after the festival's relocation to Bethel was announced. Signs were erected around town, saying, "Stop Max's Hippie Music Festival. No 150,000 hippies here. Buy no milk."[5]

Yasgur, a thin man who wore glasses, was 49 at the time of the festival and had a heart condition. He said at the time that he never expected the festival to be quite so big, but that "if the generation gap is to be closed, we older people have to do more than we have done."[3]

Yasgur quickly established a rapport with the concert-goers, providing food at cost or for free. When he heard that some local residents were reportedly selling water to people coming to the concert, he put up a big sign at his big red barn on New York State Route 17B reading "Free Water." The New York Times reported that Yasgur "slammed a work-hardened fist on the table and demanded of some friends, 'How can anyone ask money for water?'" [3] Sam Yasgur recalled that "he told us to take every empty milk bottle from the plant, fill them with water and give them to the kids, and give away all the milk and milk products we had at the dairy." [6]

At the time of the concert, friends described Yasgur as an individualist, who was motivated as much by his principles as by the money.[3] According to Sam Yasgur, his father agreed to rent the field to the festival organizers because it was a very wet year, which curtailed hay production. The income from the rental would offset the cost of purchasing thousands of bales of hay. However, Max Yasgur believed strongly in freedom of expression, and was angered by the hostility of some townspeople toward "anti-war hippies." It became for him a "cause."[6]

On the third day of the festival just before Joe Cocker's early afternoon set, Yasgur addressed the crowd.

After Woodstock[edit]

Many of his neighbors turned against him after the festival, and he was no longer welcome at the town general store, but he never regretted his decision to allow the concert on his farm.[6] On January 7, 1970, he was sued by his neighbors for area property damage caused by the attendance of the "flower children". However, the damage to his own property was far more extensive and, over a year later, he received a $50,000 settlement to pay for the near-destruction of his dairy farm.[citation needed] He refused to rent out his farm for a 1970 revival of the festival, saying "As far as I know, I'm going back to running a dairy farm." [4]

In 1971, Yasgur sold the 600-acre (2.4 km2) farm, and a year and a half later died in Florida of a heart attack at the age of 53.[4] He was given a full-page obituary in Rolling Stone magazine, one of the few non-musicians to receive such an honor.[citation needed]

In 1997, the site of the concert and 1,400 acres (5.7 km2) surrounding was purchased by Alan Gerry for the purpose of creating the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. In August 2007, the 103-acre (0.42 km2) parcel that contains Yasgur's former homestead was placed on the market for $8 million by its current owner, Roy Howard. The Woodstock site had been the locale of frequent reunions.[7]

In popular culture[edit]

Joni Mitchell's song 'Woodstock' (also covered by Eva Cassidy, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Ian Matthews, Richie Havens and Brooke Fraser) refers to 'Yasgur's Farm.' [8]

In addition, Mountain (who were also at the festival) recorded a song shortly after the event entitled 'For Yasgur's Farm'.

The Shaw/Blades project with Tommy Shaw (Styx) and Jack Blades (Night Ranger) had a hit song[citation needed], "My Hallucination" off the "Hallucination" album, that also mentioned the farm: "In Yasgur's Farm a flower grows, where it stops nobody knows, I'm flyin'...."

The band Moon Safari has a song titled Yasgur's Farm on their album Blomljud

Yasgur is portrayed by Eugene Levy in Ang Lee's film Taking Woodstock.

Sam Yasgur wrote a book about his father, Max B. Yasgur: The Woodstock Festival’s Famous Farmer, in August 2009.[9]

Quotes[edit]

"I hear you are considering changing the zoning law to prevent the festival. I hear you don't like the look of the kids who are working at the site. I hear you don't like their lifestyle. I hear you don't like they are against the war and that they say so very loudly. . . I don't particularly like the looks of some of those kids either. I don't particularly like their lifestyle, especially the drugs and free love. And I don't like what some of them are saying about our government. However, if I know my American history, tens of thousands of Americans in uniform gave their lives in war after war just so those kids would have the freedom to do exactly what they are doing. That's what this Country is all about and I am not going to let you throw them out of our Town just because you don't like their dress or their hair or the way they live or what they believe. This is America and they are going to have their festival.

—addressing a Bethel town board prior to the festival.[10]

I'm a farmer, I don't know how to speak to twenty people at one time, let alone a crowd like this. But I think you people have proven something to the world — not only to the Town of Bethel, or Sullivan County, or New York State; you've proven something to the world. This is the largest group of people ever assembled in one place. We have had no idea that there would be this size group, and because of that you've had quite a few inconveniences as far as water, food, and so forth. Your producers have done a mammoth job to see that you're taken care of... they'd enjoy a vote of thanks. But above that, the important thing that you've proven to the world is that a half a million kids — and I call you kids because I have children that are older than you are — a half million young people can get together and have three days of fun and music and have nothing but fun and music, and I God Bless You for it!

—addressing the crowd at Woodstock on August 17, 1969, from the film, Woodstock

I made a deal with (Woodstock Producer) Mike Lang before the festival started. If anything went wrong I was going to give him a crew cut; if everything was O.K. I was going to let my hair grow long. I guess he won the bet, but I'm so bald I'll never be able to pay it off.

Life Magazine, Special Edition, Woodstock 1969

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ U.S. Census, January 1, 1920, State of New York, County of New York, enumeration district 701, p. 8-A, family 200.
  2. ^ "Max Yasgur Tribute Page". woodstockpreservation.org. Retrieved 2009-09-09. [dead link]
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Farmer With Soul:Max Yasgur". The New York Times. 1969-08-17. 
  4. ^ a b c "Max Yasgur Dies; Woodstock Festival Was on His Farm". The New York Times. 1973-02-09. 
  5. ^ Shepard, Richard F. (1969-07-23). "Pop Rockl Festival Finds New Home". The New York Times. 
  6. ^ a b c Weaver, Friz (Oct,30-Nov. 5, 2008). "County attorney waxes historic". The River Reporter. Retrieved 2009-09-07. 
  7. ^ "Yasgur's farm for sale ... for $8 million". Associated Press. 2007-08-08. Retrieved 2009-06-13. 
  8. ^ Joni Mitchell's website -- Woodstock song lyrics
  9. ^ Cohen, Howard (2009-08-15). "Woodstock books bring readers back to Yasgur’s farm". The Providence Journal. 
  10. ^ Yasgur, Sam. "Book excerpt, Sam Yasgur website". Retrieved 2009-09-08. 

External links[edit]