BETHEL — They came from thousands of miles around for a massive festival of music, peace and love.
They also slept in the mud.
Like their hippie forebears more than four decades ago, nearly 20,000 people have converged on the site of the iconic Woodstock Festival this weekend for a three-day electronic music event called Mysteryland.
“You hear about Woodstock all your life,” said Queens resident Kahlil King, 27. “The chance to camp out here is something you just can’t miss.”
This weekend is the first time since 1969 that the town of Bethel has granted camping permits on the soil Mysteryland organizers refer to as “holy ground.” Just like it did at Woodstock, rain has been coming down in periodic torrents.
Mud boots are the fashion accessory of choice, and anyone who dances too long in one spot risks sinking into the ground.
But unlike the legendary fest, the crowd has not even come close to the swell of 500,000 people. Mysteryland fences have not been breached, so anyone without a $200 ticket is simply not getting in. Security is tight, with mounted police and drug-sniffing dogs.
Organizers are hoping everything goes smoothly and Mysteryland becomes an annual Memorial Day weekend event. If it does, Jessica and Steve Arthur, both 26, of Buffalo can come back for their anniversary.
“We decided to get married in September but then heard about Mysteryland at Woodstock and wanted our wedding to be a part of this. So we moved the date up and changed the location,” said Jessica, who wed Steve on Saturday. The rain may have gotten in the way — but music was not a problem.
Acts over the three-day festival include marquee electronic music names like Steve Aoki, Nicky Romero, Kaskade and classics of the genre, like Moby. They span six stages across the festival grounds, and run from early afternoon until 2 a.m.
Many of the dozens of DJs playing this weekend dedicated their sets to the memory of Woodstock.
“This is for my dad,” shouted one DJ playing the Friday night pre-party. “He came to the festival here and it changed his life.”
Like that DJ, most concertgoers weren’t even born when Woodstock rocked its way into history and pop culture 45 years ago, but signs around the campsite read “Est. 1969.”
“I keep hearing about the ghosts and spirits of Woodstock that are roaming around here,” said Tara Kim, 26, from New Brunswick, N.J. “Electronic music fans are the hippies of this generation, so we are honoring their memory by being here.”
Duke Devlin works at The Museum at Bethel Woods and shows visitors around the hallowed site. He knows it well, as he himself was a young man rocking out in the mud in ’69.
Even though those attending the festival are listening to pounding bass cannons instead of wailing folk and rock music, he said it’s great to see a new generation making Woodstock memories. Especially since his generation has moved on.
“Back then I used to drop acid,” he said. “Now I just drop antacid.”