Woodstock Chamber explores opportunities for Festival 50th

All is calm in Woodstock…now. (Photo by Dion Ogust)

As Woodstock faces the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Aquarian Festival that affected much of the town’s profile, at least in terms of business, the Chamber of Commerce & Arts is gearing up for a 2019 season aimed at celebrating Woodstock as both the inspiration for that festival so long ago, and a fine destination no matter how you look at it.

Friday, December 14, the Chamber is holding an 8:30 a.m. meeting at the Woodstock Playhouse about ways to jointly promote its plans for May through October around town. 

“This is your chance to get involved and benefit from exclusive marketing opportunities,” read the e-flyer that announced the event, where a Woodstock-based digital marketing agency, EchoSixty6, will be introduced to the community as a possible hire to help coordinate promotional efforts locally and nationally. “Come see how you can get involved, and what it would mean for you, your brand or your local business.”

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According to Chamber president Randy Conti, who also serves as one of the Playhouse’s executive directors, the move towards hiring EchoSixty6 resulted from discussions among members of a Chamber steering committee dedicated to the upcoming 2019 season of Woodstock celebrations.

“As a board we decided to reach out to our community and invite them to be part of the plans,” Conti said this week. “A steering committee was put together from our Chamber board, our membership, and others in the local arts and business communities. We’ve met several times now and started to realize that what lay ahead might be a much larger task than we could all handle among ourselves, what with our own businesses and nonprofits to manage, our own plans for the coming summer.”

Several members of the committee — which included Conti, Doug Farrell of the Playhouse, town board member and historian Richard Heppner, Woodstock School of Art executive director Nina Doyle, Sam Spada’s of Nancy’s Ice Cream Shop, local music producer Lu Ann Bielawa, realtor Judy Steinfeld, and Paul Kassner — had worked with EchoSixty6, whose local clientele has included the Center for Photography at Woodstock, the Ulster County Board of Realtors, and various private businesses. That company’s principal, Terry Dagrosa, made a number of presentations to the committee, adapting to their assorted comments each time, and according to Conti, “has developed an exciting campaign that includes a promotional website with exclusive merchant directories, ongoing gift guides and lists of things to do in town, collaborative social media.” As well as custom-designed merchandise and an overall marketing campaign for everyone in town.

“We want to share Terry’s ideas and basically see if the community is ready to come on board with her doing all of this,” Conti added. “It’s not about us trying to produce anything special as a Chamber — each of us have our own agendas and calendars already. It’s about coordinating all that’ll be happening and getting the word out to locals and nationwide on what will be happening in terms of music, film, theater and art this coming year…Hopefully the community is going to be interested.”

Having covered Woodstock’s plans to ride shotgun on celebrations of the Woodstock Festival’s 20th, 25th and 30th anniversaries, we’ve seen the town promote efforts to sell off square inches of public property, re-route all local traffic via a one-way detour scheme, and host (through its chamber, galleries and various non-profit organizations) a number of fine art auctions, star-studded but homey concerts, and other events.

We asked Conti if he or any members of the Chamber’s Woodstock Celebration 2019 steering committee had been in touch with Woodstock Festival impresario Michael Lang, a local resident, about his plans.

“It’s all so hush-hush,” Conti replied. “All we keep hearing is that it’s not going to be in the Woodstock area.”

Our own attempts to reach Lang, by e-mail and phone, have come to naught, leaving the sole information on his plans to date a series of vague pronouncements in a recent Poughkeepsie Journal story that quoted him saying that, “We have definite plans,” but adding that they are “not a done deal yet. But it’s very close.” He added that the 50th anniversary festival would be built around ideas of sustainability, activism and social justice, themes that “hopefully encourage people to get involved with our lives on the planet” by harnessing the “history and essence of what Woodstock was.”

“At this point, the whole idea we’re interested in at the Chamber is promoting Woodstock as the inspiration of the concert,” Conti said this week. “The town has over one hundred years of the arts to celebrate, all the Soundouts and Maverick Festivals upon which the 1969 festival was based, as well as all we have now, including the 20th anniversary of the Woodstock Film Festival. Our plan is to show what Woodstock is made of, that it is not just a place where the concert was supposed to be. In other words, this is not about celebrating the festival Michael Lang puts on somewhere else, but Woodstock’s longstanding richness as an arts community and a destination.”

As for specific events that will be occurring from May through October of 2019, Conti said much was still being finalized, and the best he could speak to was what the Playhouse was planning.

“We’ll be putting on the musical Hair,” he said. “Ellen Diamond is putting together a big anniversary concert.”

As for how the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce & The Arts is doing beyond its plans for next year, everyone felt the most recent Open House went well, that the board is working well together, and while some go and others join, overall membership “stays the same.”

“It’s all a lot of work, what with monthly board meetings and weekly committee gatherings, but everyone works hard,” Randy Conti added. “Of course, we could always use more help…Please make that our message.”

Again, the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce & Arts meeting on building plans and promotion for the town’s own celebration of Woodstock ‘19 takes place Friday, December 14 at 8:30 AM at the Woodstock Playhouse, 103 Mill Hill Road on the eastern entry into town.

For further information and suggestions, email woodstockcelebration2019@gmail.com.

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