Vernon, N.Y. — There will be no Woodstock 50 concert at Vernon Downs this year, and probably none at all.
The Vernon town planning board voted unanimously to uphold the denial of Woodstock’s application to hold a three-day concert in mid-August. Promoters said they don’t plan to challenge the decision in court.
Greg Peck, co-owner of Woodstock 50, declined comment after the meeting. Michael Lang, who has promoted all three previous Woodstock festivals, including the original in 1969, said they won’t sue.
“We wouldn’t want the town to suffer,” Lang said.
There was more bad news for Woodstock tonight, though. Virgin Produced, the production company that had backed the festival, announced after the Vernon vote that it’s pulling out, according to concert publication Pollstar. “It has become apparent that time has expired,” Virgin Produced said in a statement to the magazine.
The festival was originally planned for Aug. 16 to 18 at Watkins Glen International racetrack, but that fell apart after a major investor pulled out. Promoters in June came to Vernon Downs hoping to hold the festival on the same dates, but the codes office rejected Woodstock 50′s plans as incomplete and too late.
Promoters and Vernon Downs officials said the three-day concert would have brought 65,000 people to the track and millions of dollars in revenue for local businesses.
Promoters said they’ve been meeting with codes officials for weeks, and have submitted and re-submitted plans as they were refined. Planning board Chairman Mike Sheridan said the board could only consider the 160 pages of documents filed with Woodstock’s appeal on July 11.
“The information they had on July 11 was not complete in my opinion,” Sheridan said. Among the many problems, he said, was a lack of clarity in the drawings of the site. He also said that the traffic and safety plans weren’t signed off by transportation and police agencies.
“It sounds good, but the lack of affirmation by public agencies submitted by Woodstock 50 does not give me a reason to be comfortable,” he said.
Another planning board member, Tom Gerken, said he was concerned about another Woodstock ’99. That festival, held 20 years ago at Griffiss Air Force Base, in Rome, ended in flames and riots. That concert drew more than 200,000 people, about four times more than Woodstock 50 had planned.
More than 100 people packed the town hall for the sometimes contentious 2-hour meeting. Some wore badges that read: “Protect our village. Say no.” Others supported the festival, hoping it would create jobs and boost local businesses.
Lang left open the possibility that there could still be a Woodstock 50 somewhere. “There’s a crack,” he said. “We’ll know more tomorrow.”
Vernon Downs owner Jeff Gural spoke for more than five minutes about the harness race track’s dismal financial picture. He had pushed the Woodstock festival, saying it would be good for the economy.
“This is an opportunity to revitalize the town, revitalize Vernon Downs, and put Vernon on the map,” Gural said.
Gural said he had hoped to turn Vernon Downs into a concert venue, but warned the board he would drop those plans if Woodstock 50 was turned down.
“If we don’t get permission to do this,”Gural said, “I’m not coming back.”