WATKINS GLEN--It wasn't meant to be.
The Watkins Woodstock 50 weekend festival planned for Watkins Glen International had problems from the start. The nagging problems of finances, festival attendance disputes, state permits and a host of other details eventually doomed the weekend concert dream of promoter Michael Lang.
If Woodstock 50 had taken place, the expected crowds would have seen a steamy, stormy and overcast August weekend with thunderstorms soaking the area.
Nonetheless, some area residents and visitors who planned their vacation after the anniversary weekend was cancelled enjoyed some planned and some spur-of-the-moment local events where music, food and fundraising drew small local audiences for some good old-fashioned small town enjoyment.
Ray Fitzgerald, a drummer and lead singer for local band Seneca Jam, says he had the idea for a local "Watkinstock" event before Woodstock 50 was cancelled. He thought it might provide a location for the overflow of people unable to get in a sold-out Woodstock festival. Fitzgerald said, "We thought so many people could show up without tickets and they'd need a place to go." Because Lafayette Park was available the downtown Watkins location became the place for a free concert Saturday with four mostly local musical groups. The rainstorm on Saturday ended up re-locating the small gathering of fans who showed up for the downtown music.
Three months ago after Woodstock 50 was announced for Watkins Glen, most local motels and hotels were booked solid for the weekend. Cancellations came in after the festival was nixed. Seneca Lodge had been fully booked for the weekend with Woodstock 50 wannabe attendees but when the festival was cancelled they lost those reservations. While other vacationers filled in some of those vacancies, a spokesperson said their occupancy rate was lower than expected for a mid-August weekend. The Watkins-Corning KOA and several other places fared a bit better, filling in from waiting lists and spur-of-the-moment travelers.
A pretty doggie named Bella was hoping to find her "furrever" family and be a good ambassador for the Schuyler County Humane Society at "Wagstock"--a musical fundraiser hosted by Hazlitt's 1852 Winery Friday evening. "We'd been looking forward to having a concession stand at "Woodstock 50"--and at the Phish concert last year, both expected to be promising fundraisers," explains executive director Georgie Taylor. "So we thought, what the heck--we'll throw our own little party." Longtime Humane Society supporters at Hazlitts generously offered the venue.
Every year, the Montour Falls Moose Club puts on a summer jamboree, and they'd originally thought they'd have to schedule their celebration around Woodstock 50, "due to the traffic," explains administrator Larry Scruggs. (And yes, legendary banjo player Earl Scruggs was his third cousin.) "Then we thought, it would be nice to have a fundraiser and make some money and capitalize on the Woodstock traffic." With the cancellation, they realized the time was truly ideal. "None of the local bands were booked for this weekend. And coincidentally, the Schuyler County Ambulance has to do repair work on their structure, so we thought we'd roll that whole theme into helping."
Governor Tom Griswold thought it might be fun to re-name this year's event "Moosestock;" Griswold, Albert Depew and Scruggs did most of the organization, with assistance from other volunteer members. Hot dogs and barbecue and family-friendly games were also on the menu. About a hundred advance tickets were sold, mostly to Moose members, but Scruggs says they were hoping to double that number with attendance from the general area.
"We see a lot of people make up their mind [at the last minute] they'll come out and enjoy. We want to make sure everyone feels welcomed. Maybe they'll figure out that they want to be members. That's always a plus, though this isn't a recruiting drive--this is just us having fun. It's a little parody on Woodstock with games, activities, giving some things away."