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Woodstock "a one shot type of thing" - police officer who worked at the festival

Video Credit: Reuters Studio - Duration: 02:10s - Published < > Embed
Woodstock 'a one shot type of thing' - police officer who worked at the festival

Woodstock "a one shot type of thing" - police officer who worked at the festival

William Ellsworth was drafted in to help out as a police officer just days before Woodstock began.

Rough cut (no reporter narration).

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Woodstock "a one shot type of thing" - police officer who worked at the festival

Controlling the crowds at the 1969 Woodstock Festival was close to a mission impossible, according to mounted patrol officer William Ellsworth, who was sent to work at the legendary event.

The three-day festival at a farm at Bethel Woods, in New York's Catskills mountains, attracted more than 400,000 people.

Ellsworth, who worked for the Rockland County Sheriff's Office, was drafted in to help just days before the festival started.

"Well, it's hard to control half a million people," he said, remembering the event 50 years ago.

"You know, you really can't do that... maybe the term 'crowd control' is not really correct.

I mean, we weren't there to control them." He said stopping drug use and enforcing penal laws was also challenging.

"There wasn't much you could do.

And yeah, I saw some people smoking weed, marijuana and stuff.

But, you know," he said.

Ellsworth and his patrol unit worked on the site from Wednesday to Sunday.

They had rented a hotel room but the traffic conditions at the site and its surrounding areas meant they ended up sleeping in the stables with their horses.

Their duties included clearing the way for emergency vehicles with their horses.

No major incidents took place during the festival, Ellsworth said.

"Nothing really bad happened.

I think there was one death there and that was basically accidental.

Some kid put down his bedroll behind a tractor and the guy just went out of his barn, hopped on the tractor, started it up, and didn't think to check, because nobody sleeps in his yard," he said.

Fifty years on, he said an event of the scale of Woodstock would be hard to stage.

"I think now there's so many rules and regulations that have been promoted, because of Woodstock, you know.

Like you have to have so many Port-o-Sans, you have to have so many emergency vehicles.

It wouldn't be as spontaneous as it was, and it's a different time now, you know.

So could you have a large one like that?

Yes, but you'd probably have a much larger police presence and I don't think it would be as tolerant as it was," he said.

"I think that was a one shot type of thing." (Production: Parul Gupta)




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