Spirit of Woodstock distilled for theme park

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The Independent Online
Fancy a spin on Bob's Big Dipper? (Dylan, that is). A night at the Vanotel (Morrison), perhaps? If you want, you can get suites with authentic mud. Or how about a ride back in time on the Joni Express (Mitchell), destination 1969?

Welcome to Woodstock, the theme park. It does not exist, yet, but if businessman Alan Gerry has his way, it may not be a long time coming.

He promises, though, that it will not be a "honky-tonk" affair. Nor will it be too enormous - in other words not of Disney World dimensions.

What Mr Gerry, a cable television mogul, says he has in mind is a park that will attempt to recapture the counterculture spirit of the famed Woodstock music festival, that was attended by 40,000 people on open farmland in southern New York State 28 years ago.

That Woodstock occupies a special place in the American soul is unarguable. The festival featured virtually every leading rock band of the 1960s and has since come to represent the apotheosis of everything that was liberal about the decade, from flower-power to the anti-Vietnam movement.

Even now, each August anniversary attracts scores of pilgrims, most of them one-time hippies, to Woodstock.

Three years ago, a 25th anniversary concert was staged there also. Some remember the music, some the spirit of communality and some the conditions at the concert - mud, mud and no sanitation.

Mr Gerry, who has bought the original site and a thousand acres around it, is uncertain what the park will offer. Possibilities, however, include train rides, reenactments, concert venues, multiple-screen cinemas and theme hotels.

"I want the site to exist in perpetuity," he said, "so generations will be able to come there and stand and experience what earlier generations experienced without having to get into a honky-tonk situation".

Reactions of those who were at the original Woodstock have so far been mixed. "It sounds pretty hokey to make a theme park out of our youth," commented one original concert-goer.

Officials of the surrounding county, however, are delighted. For them, a Woodstock theme park spells plenty of dollars.

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