25th July (1999) Woodstock 99, Rome, USA

This week: Fran’s travels to Woodstock 99 music festival held in Rome, New York state in 1999. It was a three day music festival on the 30th anniversary of the original Woodstock. This was the last day.

25th July (1999) Woodstock 99, Rome, USA

Today was our third and last day at the Woodstock 99 music festival outside the town of Rome in New York State. There were two main stages called East and West. We mostly spent our time at the East Stage. Today’s line up there included Al Green, Willie Nelson, Brian Setzer, Everest, Elvis Costello, Jewel, Creed, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

I’m obligated to say that Jewel was my favourite, seeing as I was an EDA, which stands for Every Day Angel, the name used by official Jewel fans. There were car pools full of EDAs that headed to Woodstock. I arranged for a friend, who was too late to join our car, a ride in one of those car pools, so she didn’t miss out. I have never met an EDA who is not welcoming to all, so I knew they would look after her.

Being a fan, I was looking forward to seeing Jewel’s performance on our last day. I am pleased to say the audience was respectful, well behaved and loving, unlike some of the previous sets. Signage in the crowd read “Marry Me”, and “I love you Jewel”. Two of our group moved closer in than our usual position of about halfway back. Being in the thick of a respectful crowd was great. Being that close during some of yesterday’s performances would have been frightening.

The average temperature over the festival was hovering around thirty-eight degrees celsius with no shade. So when the clouds rolled in during Jewel’s set, we welcomed the light showers and reprieve from the sun’s harsh rays. Jewel put her hat on saying something like, “I don’t mind the rain”.

Three days of intensive trampling and heat had turned the once green grass into barren dirt you could barely see through the debris on the ground. The field would take time to recover.

We left after Jewel’s set, which was not the end of the festival. Work beckoned in the morning, and it was at least a five-hour drive home. We left content with our weekend experience.

After we left, candles were handed out by the promoters, which led to multiple fires breaking out during the Red Hot Chilli Peppers set. The crowd was out of control, needing the riot squad to contain them. Friends and families had seen footage on the news and were worried about us. Luckily, we were blissfully unaware while driving home. Without mobile phones or internet access, we did not know what had happened until we woke up the next morning. The festival became more notorious for the crowd behaviour than the performances or overall experience. That was a shame. 

The final tally of horror included three deaths, twelve hundred medical tent visits, forty-four arrests, at least five rapes, and multiple other sexual assault reports. HBO recently revisited the controversial weekend in a 2021 documentary called Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage. It is worth watching. I can’t believe I was there.

I am glad our group were lucky enough to avoid all the trouble and have memories of a music and entertainment filled weekend away in upstate New York. I’m sorry not everyone can say the same.

I have no recollections of what we ate, but we must have brought food with us. I found a note with Woodstock Spending written on the top. It mentions a $4 pizza, $4 ice cream, $4 frozen stuff (maybe a slushie?), and two $4 drinks. Four was someone’s favourite number. A souvenir t-shirt was $20. Car hire cost $62 plus $10 in petrol. Whatever the total cost, the experience was priceless.

Jewel at Woodstock 99
Jewel on the screen
Jewel at Woodstock 99
Jewel on the stage

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