Will Hoppey (New York-based musician): My idea was, for the 20th anniversary, I wanted to go up. I’m a musician for a living -- a professional musician, I’ve done it for 40 years. I got a lot of friends that play and I got a lot of gear. I was going to just camp and get a generator and ask my friends to come up, and we were just going to jam for free on the property to celebrate like musicians would, so to speak. But I didn’t know how to do this.
So I got a hold of Wayne Saward [caretaker of the property]. He had a line on [property owner Lou] Necketopoulis, but [Lou] was in the hospital with cancer and he was dying. In fact, he died over the week of the Woodstock anniversary.
Now it’s getting to be a couple of weeks before, and [Saward] just says to me: “Don’t tell anyone I told you this, but just go up and do it. Just go take your stuff up, and if they throw you out, then they throw you out.”
Pell: I said [to the folks at the Woodstock site], “Hey, I have my guitar in the car, can I bring it out and we can have a little sing-along here?” And a guy said, “Yeah! Bring it out man, that’s cool, great.” I just started playing guitar, and then out of the blue I said, “You know, I got a PA.” And the other guy said, “Well, I got a generator.” Another guy said, “Well I got a tarp.” And I said, “Well you know what…” And I just came up with an idea: I’m going to come back tomorrow, Sunday, and just set up.
The next day, I had a lot of people around me watching. All of a sudden, one kid said, “Well can I play?” And I said, “Of course, sure, here’s my guitar, go ahead.” And then another guy wanted to play and I said, “Of course you can play, sure.” I was in the kindergarten mentality: When you’re in kindergarten, you can’t be negative. So I just applied that to Woodstock, and said, “Of course!”
Charlie Gelish (Property owner): [My mother and I] get up there, we see all this happening, and I had to go into the group of people and find out what was going on. They said, “Oh, we’re celebrating, we’re the Woodstock nation.” I said, “OK, you know you’re actually trespassing?” “Oh, it doesn’t matter, doesn’t matter,” they said. I loved it, you know, I kept my cool. So I went around to people and had to put together some type of organization in it.
I’m there and I run into [Pell], playing some music and what not. I say, “You know what, I like this kid.” I brought him over, I said, “Look, we have to organize something here to keep it going right. We’ll make up a list of entertainment acts. Give them like 15 minutes each, depending upon what they do.”
Pell: Gelish said, “Any music that comes through here, comes through you, you understand that?” I said, “Well, thanks so much man.” I guess he saw something in me. So we decided that anybody can play, but here’s the deal: you have three songs, or 12 minutes. Which went up to about 15 to 20, but it was 12 pretty much.