50 years after, Lamont will finally get to Woodstock
Gov. Ned Lamont was 14 when some of the greatest acts in rock and roll history took the stage at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair in 1969.
As the story goes, he begged his parents to let him go, to no avail. Now that he finds himself leading a state with an aptly named town and a personal budget with money to spare, Lamont is making an effort to recreate the festival he so badly wanted to attend. That the event could also drive tourism traffic to one of the most rural corners of the state doesn’t hurt his motivation either.
The Woodstock Fair, with the support of Lamont, will mark the 50th anniversary of the historic Woodstock Music Festival by hosting a Connecticut battle of the bands competition on Aug. 30, the first day of the fair.
The competition will feature Connecticut-based bands competing to earn a total of $17,000 in prize money. The bands will have to play at least one song played at the original Woodstock festival.
“If you’re my age, the Woodstock Music Fair back in 1969 was a big deal and they talked about it, thought about it, if you were too young to go, you missed it,” Lamont said Friday during a tour of the Woodstock fairgrounds. “Here’s a chance in Woodstock, Connecticut, August 30, if you missed it, you’re going to come back.”
While the original music festival took place a few hours away in New York state, the idea to host a commemorative festival in Woodstock, Connecticut, is one the governor hasn’t been able to shake since before he was even elected in the fall of 2018. Since then, the joke is, his priorities have been “budget, transportation and Woodstock,” in that order.
Lamont, an amateur piano player with an extensive knowledge of music history who went viral for his dance moves during his own inauguration in January, said it’s possible he’ll bust out some Janis Joplin on the keys during the festival, but more than likely he’ll be one of the “celebrity” judges for the competition.
State Sen. George Logan, R-Ansonia, is also expected to participate — he’s known for channeling Jimi Hendrix’s guitar playing abilities, and even opened Lamont’s inauguration with his own version of Hendrix’s famous Woodstock rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner.”
Lamont has mentioned the tribute festival on numerous occasions over the past few months. One of those mentions came during a tourism conference at a May tourism conference in Hartford, shortly after news broke that the commemorative Woodstock 50 festival scheduled for August in Watkins Glen, New York, near the site of the original festival, was on the rocks. Though many people thought he may have been joking, it’s clear he was not.
“I’m counting down the days,” Lamont quipped Friday, and it certainly seems he is.
And in all seriousness, the festival is a classic Lamont move. While he’s been criticized for thinking out loud and at times appearing indecisive on key issues as a result, the Woodstock tribute at the 159th anniversary of the Woodstock Fair is the product of some trademark Lamont brainstorming.
“He has been talking about this since October of 2018,” said Lamont aide Rob Blanchard, who has been tasked with planning the Battle of the Bands tribute concert. “He really likes these kind of different ideas that are fun and celebrate something, celebrate Connecticut. He was a child of the 60s. He wasn’t old enough to attend the original festival but he loves that music from that era and he’s actually a music historian ... This is a fun way to celebrate Woodstock and Connecticut.”
Blanchard was given a budget between $20,000 and $30,000, personally funded by Lamont. The majority of the funds — about $17,000 — will be prize money for the competition, while the remainder will be used for marketing the event. No state money has been allocated for the competition, which will take place on the first day of the annual Woodstock Fair, which drew more than 200,000 visitors to the rural town in northeast Connecticut last year. Blanchard said the competition will be held at no cost to taxpayers or fair organizers, and corporate sponsors are more than welcome to get involved.
Bands interested in participating must be Connecticut-based, and at least one member will have to provide a Connecticut driver’s license as proof of residency. Full details on how to participate can be found at woodstockfair.com.
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