Woodstock 50 Denied Permit At Vernon Downs, Future Of Festival Once Again In Jeopardy

The embattled music festival, which has dealt with ongoing financing and legal issues, has now struck out with a second location.

Woodstock 50
Michael Lang's Woodstock 50 has been dealt yet another blow in its quest to find a site to host the festival.

Woodstock’s 50th anniversary is shaping up to be one that its creators might want to forget. The embattled Woodstock 50 festival, which originally boasted a star-studded lineup, including Jay-Z and The Killers, and was set to occur at Watkins Glen—before its financial backers pulled out and a lawsuit ensued—have now been denied access to a second potential festival site.

According to Variety, Woodstock 50 organizers, led by Michael Lang, creator of the original Woodstock Music and Art Fair in 1969, who had applied for a permit in June to throw the festival at Vernon Downs, have been denied the permit by the town of Vernon, NY. The denial of the permit came on the heels of a Vernon town meeting earlier this week, in which the Oneida County sheriff told a gathered crowd that he couldn’t guarantee the safety of the public if the event were to happen at Vernon Downs. The festival was supposed to take place on August 16-18.

A rep from Woodstock 50 told Variety: “In response to the denial of an event permit by the Town of Vernon, Woodstock 50 believes certain political forces may be working against the resurrection of the Festival. Local reports claim Woodstock’s filing for the permit was ‘incomplete’ but that is not the case. Woodstock 50 officials were informed by the Town of Vernon that most questions had been answered and asked only that Woodstock submit medical, safety/security and traffic plans by this past Sunday, which it did. With a venue chosen, financing assembled and many of the artist’s supporting Woodstock’s 50th Anniversary event, the organizers are hopeful that their appeal and reapplication tonight will prevail without further political interference.”

Organizers had high hopes for the 50th anniversary event, which was officially announced earlier this year, but by April, Woodstock 50’s financial backer, the Dentsu Aegis Network, had pulled the plug on its funding and “cancelled” the event, which led to a court battle with a few key outcomes. Dentsu avoided having to pay Lang and the Woodstock 50 organizers more than $18 million that Lang had accused the company of bleeding from the festival’s accounts. On the other hand, the New York Supreme Court ruled that the festival’s initial cancellation had been unlawful, giving Lang and Woodstock 50 the green light to start anew. But out that $18 million-plus and with the roster of artists having already been paid $30 million to perform, Lang soon found himself in a massive financial hole.

The permit denial can still be appealed by the Woodstock 50 festival organizers—and likewise, again be denied by the town of Vernon. The two parties could then wind up in court again. But with less than five weeks until the proposed first day of the festival (August 16)—and not a single ticket for it having been sold—this might have been a fatal blow to the festival.


Will Levith

Will Levith is Editorial Director at Saratoga Living and Capital Region Living magazine. He's a native Saratogian and graduate of Saratoga Springs High School. His work has been published by Esquire, Playboy, Condé Nast Traveler, Men's Health, RealClearLife and many others. He lives in Troy with his wife, Laura, and dog, Esopus.


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