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Woodstock 50 declined licence from town of Vernon – yes, again!

By | Published on Tuesday 23 July 2019

Woodstock 50

The town of Vernon in New York state has declined to issue a licence for the Woodstock 50 festival for a fourth time. A letter from the town’s council provides a long list of problems with the latest proposal submitted by organisers of the event, including that the safety plan they presented is basically “worthless”.

Preparations for Woodstock 50, due to take place from 16-18 Aug, have been eventful, to say the least. Along the way the company seeking to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the original Woodstock festival has lost its financial backer, its production partner and its venue.

This is why it is now seeking permission to stage the event at the Vernon Downs race track and casino complex somewhat late in the day, it being a second choice site for hosting the festival. Technically, by the time Vernon Downs had been chosen, organisers had already missed the 120 day deadline for submitting a licence application to stage an event of this size in the town. But councillors have considered the application anyway.

They’ve considered it four times now, in fact, because officials keep rejecting it and Team Woodstock keep appealing or resubmitting amended versions of their proposal for new consideration. But, according to the letter that accompanied the fourth rejection, there is still plenty to be done to make the proposals acceptable to officials. And very little time in which to address those problems.

According to the Poughkeepsie Journal, a letter from Vernon’s Code Enforcement Officer Reay Walker takes issue with a disclaimer in Woodstock’s paperwork which says that organisers do not “make any warranty as to the absolute accuracy or completeness of the information contained”. Without a commitment to the accuracy and completeness of the proposals, Walker says, said proposals are basically “worthless”.

He also notes that, while schedules are provided for site and stage opening times, organisers add that “these times are tentative and are subject to change without notice”. Meanwhile opening hours for the festival’s box office are still “to be determined”.

Perhaps most importantly of all, organisers still haven’t addressed the biggest concern for Vernon officials, which is how 65,000 festival-goers will get to the site, and what they will do at the end of each day, given Vernon Downs isn’t able to accommodate any camping.

Walker predicts that, under the current plan, Woodstock 50 would result in gridlock on local roads “which will, in effect, confine local residents to their homes, or to within walking distance of their homes for the better part of 72 hours”. Meanwhile, “implicit in this application is that those forced to leave Vernon Downs at 11.00 at night will be forced to sleep in their cars or any lawn or sidewalk that seems unguarded”.

Among other gripes in the letter is that Woodstock’s proposals still include employees from Virgin Produced among a list of contacts, even though the Virgin-owned events company announced it was standing down from the project after the town declined to issue a licence for the third time last week. It also says local police have been involved in the planning process, even though local police chiefs have been highly critical of the festival’s proposal.

None of this looks very good for an event due to begin in 24 days time. A spokesperson for Woodstock 50 is yet to comment on the latest setback. Pretty much everyone now thinks the next announcement from the Woodstock company has to be about the event’s cancellation or, at least, postponement. Though many people were predicting that a few weeks back, and organisers have nevertheless persisted – seemingly extremely keen indeed to hold the event on the same August weekend as the original (also very chaotic) festival in 1969. So, maybe they’ll ask officials in Vernon to give it all some fine consideration for a fifth time.

The Woodstock team member who has, until now, been most vocal about the 50th anniversary celebrations is Michael Lang. And while it’s looking increasingly likely he won’t get an actual festival to mark the 50th, he’ll still be able to reminisce via two in conversation events due to take place in LA and New York on 7 and 9 Aug respectively. So far no one involved in those events has indicated they are planning to bail. And the council of Vernon has no vote, however terrible event plans may or may not be.