The Lakes Bluegrass Festival coming to our town this week will not hold a candle to Woodstock in attendance. The bluegrass festival, however, will no doubt include some folks who visited Woodstock more than 50 years ago. We have all aged just a bit.
Fifty years ago I was 22 years old and in my prime. I was out of college and had some friends who invited me to head on "out east" to attend what was supposed to be a small, outdoor music festival. The word of Woodstock had reached the cornfields of western Iowa. I was almost teased into riding out with them, but I was trying to pay off a new car and I didn't want to challenge my boss by being absent.
So, I didn't go. Some of them did.
The closest thing to a music festival that I had attended up until that time was a Grand Ole Opry event at the Sioux City Auditorium. There weren't many outdoor music festivals in my neck of the woods during those years. Most musicians preferred to play inside, out of the rain and sun. Woodstock broke the mold and since that time outdoor festivals have flourished.
We have one coming to my town this week, the Lakes Bluegrass Festival. Fifty years ago some of the folks attending this event no doubt were wearing their tie-dyed shirts, long hair and sandals on that muddy farm field in upper New York state. Now those same folks wear button down chambray shirts, short or no haircuts, cowboy hats and boots.
I remember visiting with my dad about Woodstock. You could say he wasn't into the music of the day. He was in the Glenn Miller and Woody Herman generation and did not seem to "get" the music I was into.
"I don't know how you can listen to that stuff," he would say. "I can't understand the words and why would anyone play an electric guitar like that?"
And being a World War II veteran, hair over your ears was taboo. The butch haircuts he used to give my brother and me stood as a reminder of how he thought we should look. So when I came home one day with a double part in my hair, he simply huffed and walked away to the milk barn shaking his head. Change came hard.
So, this week our community will be welcoming a bunch of bluegrass music fans that at one time cheered on Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead and The Who. This crowd has mellowed a bit over the years, I guess you could say. Instead of passing a bottle of wine around, they'll be passing bottles of water. Instead of smelling pot smoke, they'll be smelling aftershave. Those who lost their clothes in the Woodstock dither will be be wrapped in blankets and sweatshirts as they enjoy the bluegrass sounds out under the moonlight. Instead of brightly colored, flower powered mini buses, now they'll be driving long RVs and motor homes.
Having lived through the Woodstock era I know that most of those who attended that event survived somehow. They trudged back out of the muck and mire to a world they would be trying to make a living out of for the next 50 years. Some of them will be attending the Lakes Bluegrass Festival in our town this week.
They can relax now. Somehow 50 years after Woodstock the exercise of relaxing seems more enticing to me.
See you next time. Okay?