From Woodstock to Mysteryland: The History of Bethel Woods

posted by Ilana Dadras on May 14, 2014

Bethel Woods, New York -- Bethel Woods is a cultural and civic center steeped in music history. It was, after all, home to the 1969 Woodstock Festival - largely considered one of the most important events in the history of Rock 'n Roll. The beautiful Bethel Woods campus has been maintained as a mecca for music and art lovers, most notably since 2006, when the land was acquired by Alan Gerry and turned into a world-class performing arts center. Bethel Woods Center for the Arts continues to expand as a cultural site, growing in its service to the community, Sullivan County, and visitors from around the world.

The first of its kind, Woodstock festival brought over 400,000 music lovers together for "three days of peace and music" at a time when the country's young people needed it the most. Thirty-two acts performed over the sometimes-rainy 3-day weekend, including the legendary Jimi Hendrix, the Grateful Dead, Sly & The Family Stone, Joan Baez, Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, and The Who. 

The weekend would go down in history as the defining event of the generation; despite the infamous traffic jams and overcrowding, the massively underestimated audience was an ultimately peaceful culmination of the 1960s hippie counterculture movement. It was a weekend that not only celebrated, but demonstrated the peace and love that everyone wanted to believe was possible. It was a weekend that helped the youth forget about all the bullshit. And that's what it's all about, right?

Woodstock via the festival

Fast forward to 1996, when philanthropist and cable television pioneer Alan Gerry purchased the 37-acre field that hosted the original Woodstock festival and approximately 800 acres of surrounding land in an effort to improve the quality of life in his hometown of Sullivan County.  A 15,000-capacity amphitheater was constructed in 2006, and a museum dedicated to the rich history of the '60s opened in 2008. 

Bethel Woods Center for the Arts’ mission is to be “a cultural center that inspires creative expression and civic engagement to enrich the human spirit.” The museum hosts exhibits like “America Meets the Beatles” (on display now through August 17) and “Remembering Woodstock: A Timeline of Reunions” (on display now through December 31), in addition to screening films and hosting kids’ writing and arts workshops. Check out a full list of their upcoming Events & Arts Programs – the center is just a 90-minute drive from NYC, so it makes for an awesome day trip or weekend getaway. 

The center also hosts tons of summer concerts at its Main Stage Pavillion; Santana is coming to town June 15, and Kings of Leon will perform later this August.  

But here at Cultivora we’re most excited about Memorial Day Weekend’s Mysteryland - the first multi-day event to be hosted at Bethel Woods since Woodstock. Mysteryland will bring together 20,000 music lovers (a solid 380,000 less than the original fest) for musical theater, movies, interactive installations, street performers, and of course an insane lineup featuring the best in electronic music.  

Promoters have been trying to host a large scale festival at this legendary location for years to no avail. Following festival organizer ID&T's approval, Bethel Woods Center for the Arts CEO Darlene Fedun stated, “We chose ID&T’s Mysteryland brand as the first modern era festival on the hallowed grounds for its belief in many of the same principles as our own organization. Creativity, unity, social responsibility and a focus on the 'experience' of the guest. We are delighted to be working with an experienced festival creator and an organization of such high core values."

Mysteryland Chile via the festival

Mysteryland will be headlined by Hardwell, Steve Aoki, Kaskade, Nicky Romero, Showtek, and many more A-list DJs, in addition to stacked side stage lineups and the infamous Sunday School Mini-Fest

We can't wait to dance, party, and get wild on the beautiful and historic grounds of Bethel Woods. Join us - tickets to Mysteryland are still available, starting at just $199.