WATKINS GLEN | A riot of color and the roar of crowds will replace the roar of engines on the sun-dappled fields of Schuyler County as the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock festival comes to Watkins Glen International in August.
The Woodstock50 Festival, organized by Michael Lang, founder of the original 1969 event, will be held Aug. 16-18 at the track, recently home to festival shows by the band Phish and famously the site of 1973’s Summer Jam, which drew 600,000 fans.
WGI President Michael Printup said the decision to locate the event at the track is a win for the area.
“We are extremely excited to partner with Michael Lang for Woodstock50,” Printup said. “To have an iconic brand such as Woodstock stage an event here, much less the 50th anniversary, is a huge win for our region as a whole. We are expecting between $35 and $50 million in economic impact for the area, and are already in talks with state and local officials to ensure that the weekend is a safe and smooth success for all involved.”
Despite rumors flying online, officials said specifics about the band lineup, expected to be 40 groups or more on as many as three stages, ticket prices and other details won’t be available until February.
The Woodstock anniversary festival will be smaller than Summer Jam -- WGI spokesman Chris Banker said they’re expecting 50,000-100,000 fans.
Schuyler County Administrator Tim O’Hearn said while official permits, which haven’t been obtained yet, will determine the allowed capacity, those numbers make sense to him.
“We’re in agreement that the number is whatever we can comfortably and safely accommodate,” O’Hearn said. “Past experience would indicate 100,000 is the range the infrastructure will support.”
He noted that while the Schuyler County Sheriff’s Office will still be heavily involved in maintaining those safe conditions, overall control of security for the festival will be turned over to the New York State Police.
O’Hearn said he expects the economic impact to be greater than that from a NASCAR weekend at the track.
“I think it has the potential to be larger than NASCAR,” he said. “While we’re talking about roughly the same size crowd, with the demographics the economic impact we think will be substantially larger.”
Banker noted that WGI’s role is to provide the facility and whatever support concert organizers need for the event -- all sales, including camping, will be handled by the promoters at Woodstock.com.
Officials agreed that with the event placing Schuyler County and the region once again in the national spotlight, the important thing is making sure things are done right.
“Our goal is to showcase the Finger Lakes and what a great area this is, put our best foot forward and make this a memorable and historic event,” O’Hearn said.