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April, 2009


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Woodstock 2009 August Event Proposed for Willits
by Michael O'Faolain

Published March 25, 2009
A serious plan has emerged to hold one of possibly three 40th Anniversary Woodstock concerts in August in the small Mendocino County town of Willits, California.
According to a Ukiah Daily Journal report, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors was having a special meeting focused on some development permit issues and a court building proposal when Roscoe Smith, of Monsoon Entertainment in Tempe, Arizona, announced that he represented a group of investors from both Florida and New York who were interested in staging a concert in August in Willits that could draw "around a million" attendees for the 40th anniversary of Woodstock.

Smith indicated he is working with Michael Lang, one of the co-founders of the original Woodstock, who discussed the status of the plans for the 40th Anniversary celebrations with a Billboard Magazine reporter this past week. Lang was in Austin, Texas, as part of a South By Southwest panel discussion entitled WOODSTOCK: Untold Stories.

Michael Lang described his plans for a 40th anniversary Woodstock concert as "all speculative ideas" for now, but he hopes to bring them to reality this summer. Venue ideas discussed were those reported earlier in the year - New York City and Berlin, Germany. Smith told the Daily Journal the event is being planned by original Woodstock co-founder Michael Lang to be simulcast concurrently with the possible sister venues in New York and Berlin. The Willits site is the only one on the Pacific Rim.

Both have indicated that the plan is to have the events be "green." "We want to have as small a carbon imprint as we can and use as many green techniques as we can," Lang indicated. Apparently the theme or title will be "reBirth."

"It's called reBirth because the event promotes sustainability," Smith said. "Each day has a different themed event. Our goal is to preach and educate in this event and people can walk away and make it a rebirth for themselves."

"We started researching this about two and a half years ago," Smith explained. "We looked at three spots in Louisiana, four or five in Texas, a few in Wyoming, Illinois, Missouri. We could do a bigger impact on the community if we were to do one of those areas ... Up here it might bring more innovation. We would like to get any and every service in the community involved. The less amount of corporate sponsorship the better."

The local economy could use a boost and the "green" focus is logical for Willits and Mendocino County, home to a number of innovative "green" industries.

The critical question is: "Can they avoid the disasters of Woodstock 1999?" Lang appears to be acutely aware of this. It is not 1999. The Obama Generation of college-age folks is different. So is the original Woodstock generation, who also would be attracted by the talent being discussed, different from who there were in the '90s and the '60's.

Previous concerts in other areas of the nation in 1994 and 1999 marking the 25th and 30th anniversaries of the original Woodstock had significant security and public utility problems among others. Critics deplored the 1999 use of the Woodstock brand name as that event was labeled crass commercialization. Concert organizers were said to have gouged the kids with grossly overpriced water, beer, and food. Tickets for that event were priced at $150 plus service charges.

According to Lang, the 2009 concerts will be free. Smith said the mistakes of the past, such as price gouging for basic amenities, would stand as lessons for the future of the event.

"94 was a disaster," he said. "With every ticket that we sell we'll send that out we'll send a Nalgene (water) bottle. When people are there they'll be able fill up for free. Water won't cost people."

Smith said security would be alerted to potential problems by trained medical staff who would walk the grounds and alert security when they found out about problems.

"This will be its own event," he indicated. "We're still trying to plan how we want it to go on; if it will be open doors so people can stay in the community. As an option some families might say 'We'll bring somebody in.' They do that in certain events around the country. It gets the community more involved and lets people see what the community offers. They might just say, Hey instead of buying organic carnie food we might want to go out into the town and see what the community offers' and do things like ride the Skunk Train."

"We are trying to make it as little (impact) as possible," he said. "Any kind of offsets we are doing we are trying to balance them out on the other end. Whatever property we choose obviously we're going to have to prepare the site. We're going to have some brush and trees removed, however all those trees will be used on the property. Any rocks we remove will be used for fences. Any trees will be used for walkways. Most of the water being used will be collected from the springs."

Smith said that once the site selection was complete his office would set up a communications base that would be open to the public so that those seeking more information would have a point of contact.

"We're about two to four weeks from finalizing that," he said.

As a locale, compared to Rome, NY, population 35,000, located in Oneida County, population 240,000, where Woodstock 1999 was held, Willits population of 5,032 and Mendocino County's population of 90,163 is more akin to the location of the original Woodstock. It's probably an advantage to be more rural.

Whether or not this proposal actually comes to fruition, one Willits area resident noted: "We can provide a more relaxing choice than alcohol in order to avoid a riot like in 1999." In 2000, Mendocino County voters approved a measure decriminalizing marijuana when used and cultivated for personal use.

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