There is a terrific alternative to holiday shopping, and trying to get the next best electronic device.   Plus, it’s in a direction that’s opposite of where everyone is heading, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  My 16 year old daughter joined me — be still my heart — on my day’s outing to the Bethel Woods Museum.

Bethel Woods…it’s a performance arts space for both large and intimate events, it’s a memorial to theWoodstock concert of 1969, it’s an educational center for school groups and pre-K, and it’s the caretaker of a host of historic documents, film, photos, memorabilia, groovy apparel from what was truly the wildest and transforming decade in recent history. 

I asked my daughter — a big Woodstock fan — to tag along with me, to see the museum for the first time, and experience the Pig Light Show, a visiting exhibit running through December 31. When we turned off the main road and made our way along the country road to the site, I could see her sit up in the car, take notice of her surroundings.  I knew that she knew she was somewhere special. 

The grounds of Bethel are so scenic with its rustic fencing and rolling hills and with the light blanket of snow, it looked magical and surreal.  Temperatures had dropped, so we didn’t linger, but headed right to the warmth of the main building.  There was a Hansel & Gretel live production going on in the main room, so there were many families with little ones; staff members wearing Santa hats handed out gingerbread cookies.  It was very festive. 

During this time, while the majority of guests were watching the live fairy tale, we toured the museum.  My daughter ended up wandering on her own, taking it all in at her own pace.  I’ve been to the museum a handful of times, and still I see something new, so one visit won’t do it.  On this visit, I was paying more attention to the history of the concert, how it came about, the players involved in making the deal.  (The movie, Taking Woodstock, I believe gives a good representation of how and WHY the concert was moved from Ulster County to Sullivan.)

I hadn’t realized that so many big folk acts were living in Ulster at the time, i.e., Bob Dylan, the Band, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, so the guys behind it were thinking why not put together an all-day concert of peace.  How it went from being a one day concert to a three day love fest has to be seen to be believed.  You can’t make this stuff up!

My daugher was more into the concert footage, as I figured.  She caught the two movies that played continuously: one focused more on the backstage activity, and the other solely on the performances.  She was riveted to it, and even in her quiet way, I could tell she was enjoying it.

After awhile, we decided to head to the downstairs “special exhibitions” area for the Pig Light Show.  I’d heard about this last month when it started, and glad I got to see it. Not often you get to see a “pig light show.”  The show is a tribute to the psychedelic light shows from the mid-1960s and 70s that accompanied concerts with performers like Jefferson Airplane, Frank Zappa, and Grateful Dead. 

A master of the art form, Joshua White, created his light shows for the Fillmore East in NYC.  Learning from him at the time was Marc Rubinstein, who has gone on to be a master of the light shows himself.  His shows are created from computers, and today, my daughter and I sat in the observation benches and were hypnotized by two large movie screens featuring the kaleidescope of blobs and swirls, and stars and orbs.  It was just the coolest thing.  The music accompanying it included the Beach Boys, Peter Gabriel, and one of my favorites, The Moody Blues. 

You can also walk around the smaller cubicles to listen with headphones to your own movie light show.  Great headphones..puts the earbud to shame.

We hit the gift shop — how could we not — and picked up some groovy Christmas presents (couldn’t resist the 25% off sale).  I have already accepted that I am and will always be a Bethel Woods fan, and now I can enjoy the thought that my daughter is as well.  There’s not many things we have in common, so I will cherish this day.

(Bethel Woods is located on Route 17B, off exit 104 of Route 17.  For museum hours and ticket information, log on to bethelwoodscenter.org.  1-800-745-3000

P.S.  This experience has explained why we are so hooked on electronics: the sights and sounds of our world today are truly mesmerizing. It’s no wonder we don’t want to miss a thing.

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