The pilgrimage to Woodstock looked a bit like a forced march Saturday instead of a rock 'n' roll odyssey as thousands scrambled to get in and thousands more camped on top of one another.
Promoters said as many as 250,000 people were on the 850-acre site of Woodstock '94, with many more coming on charter buses, stuck at shuttle bus sites or straggling in on foot. Some walked up to 10 miles, said New York State police spokesman James Atkins."It looks like the Bataan Death March. Shambling columns of people," Atkins said. "A well-fed Bataan Death March."
Tents were pitched everywhere just inches apart in fields and woods and on hillsides. People knocked down fences to scout out campgrounds in woods outside the site.
Some tents were so close to portable toilets that trucks couldn't get in to clean them, creating the prospect for a fetid day as temperatures climbed to the mid-80s with high humidity and thunderstorms a possibility.
Some highways shut down, and nearby exits on the New York State Thruway were closed to all but local traffic. Parking lots at shuttle bus sites miles away were jammed full, and promoters rushed to find more space for ticket-holders to park.
An afternoon downpour turned the site into something resembling Max Yasgur's muddy farm in Bethel, 55 miles southwest, home of the first Woodstock.
Still, promoters promised the music would make up for it all. Saturday's acts included The Band, Crosby, Stills and Nash, the Cranberries and Melissa Ethe-ridge.
"The system is certainly maxed out," promoter John Scher said. "But everybody's got a smile on their face this morning, and the music is going to make everybody forget their woes."
Joe Cocker, the first headliner after 20 warmup acts Friday, took the stage at midday with a show that included his hits "Feelin' Alright," "The Letter" and "You Can Leave Your Hat On."
The long locks he wore at Woodstock 1969 were gone, but the balding Cocker's gnarly facial tics were still there, and he played air guitar with the same old spirit.
"See you again in 2019!" Cocker said after his blistering, 75-minute show.
Not everyone got to see him this time. Many ticketholders trapped at shuttle sites or traipsing in on foot didn't arrive until midafternoon. Tight security had loosened, and people strolled through untended gates or climbed fences around the site.
Dave Stevenston of St. Louis had hoped to arrive Friday night but got stuck at a shuttle site and didn't get in until 6:30 a.m. "I feel ripped off, cheated," Stevenston said.
Promoters had room for nearly 50,000 cars at shuttle sites as many as 50 miles away, but haphazard parking ate up about 20 percent of the space, said John Iaccio of the state Department of Transportation. The lots were closed Friday night, and ticket sales were cut off.
Most ticketholders were already on site, along with a few thousand gate-crashers who sneaked in, Scher said. Organizers hoped to get all ticketholders in, but Scher conceded promoters might have to offer refunds for the $135 tickets to anyone who doesn't make it.
Organizers tried to shoo latecomers into remote woods to set up camp. Daniel Lilienfeld of Albany said he and friends set up tents, then were told by security guards to move because they were in a VIP area. They refused and the guards backed off, Lilienfeld said.
"Once you get here and set up, you figure, now there's just the party," Lilienfeld said. "Then these guys are out there saying, `We're still making up the rules and regulations as we go along.' "
Others, once they got settled, were blissful.
"It's beautiful," said Vinnie Florak of Cairo, N.Y., as he smoked some marijuana. "You couldn't ask for a better place."
Chaos aside, things were peaceful. State police Lt. Col. James O'Donnell said the only arrests were two men who got into a fight just outside the festival site.
One death was reported. Joseph Roussel, 44, of West Babylon, N.Y., died Friday night of complications from diabetes, said Walter Dobushak, Ulster County medical examiner. Initial reports that Roussel's death was alcohol-related proved wrong, Dobushak said.
Drug use was widespread, mostly marijuana, LSD and mushrooms, and people smuggled in booze despite an alcohol ban. Police said they made no arrests for fear it might inflame the crowd.