The promoters of Woodstock '94 had the money, but they didn't have the magic.
So 25,000 members of the Woodstock nation went back to Max Yasgur's farm - site of the original festival - for an impromptu 25th anniversary celebration Saturday."You can feel the spirit coming up from the ground," said Kate Decker, 42, who spent the first Woodstock on the same site with Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. "I would not go to Saugerties. That's money. THIS is Woodstock."
And like the original, this gathering was somewhat of a happy accident. Plans for a show featuring vintage Woodstock acts like Richie Havens and John Sebastian fell through as a result of dismal ticket sales - fewer than 2,000 of the 50,000 organizers printed were peddled.
All the pre-weekend hype went to the Woodstock '94 show in Saugerties, where the big-name acts gathered amid big-time corporate sponsors for a big price ($135) ticket.
Meanwhile, the cars started arriving here Thursday night in the sprawling natural amphitheater where 400,000 people turned a senior citizen's farm into a disaster area in 1969. A small city had appeared by Saturday - motor homes, fruit stands, vendors, campers, partiers.
"Saugerties - too many rules and regulations," sniffed Eric Wasser, 43, who came from Scranton, Pa., with 15 friends. "Everyone said the one in Bethel sounded better. They just never got around to buying tickets."
Wasser and Decker weren't the only Woodstock originals back this weekend. Melanie played Friday night; Arlo Guthrie swung by Saturday. Havens, Sebastian and Country Joe McDonald are expected before the festivities break up Sunday . . . or Monday . . . or maybe Tuesday.
"I wasn't going to do this as an organized thing," said Guthrie, his gray locks flowing down his back. "But once it became free, I decided to come."
The atmosphere around the site was definitely loose. Guthrie climbed out of his tour bus to direct traffic when he arrived.
The view from the makeshift Bethel stage on Saturday - a flatbed truck with speakers - took in hundreds of multicolored tents. Tie-dye, bandanas and ponytails ruled. There were veterans of the first Woodstock and children at their first concert.
Workers scurried to complete a bigger stage - this one concocted with plywood and a half-dozen flat-beds.
Through the first two days here, only about three dozen minor injuries were reported, said Gerry Sarosy, an official at the medical tent.
One of Saturday's unknown performers was Chuck Stever, who played a set with his 16-year-old son, Travis. Stever, looking out at the crowd, said he was not surprised to see so many people coming - as Joni Mitchell put it - back to the garden.
"It's like a weird version of `Field of Dreams,' " he said. "If you cancel it, they will come."