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BACK TO REALITY: WOODSTOCK ’94 SLOPS ITS WAY TO A CONCLUSION

SHARE BACK TO REALITY: WOODSTOCK ’94 SLOPS ITS WAY TO A CONCLUSION

Its energy spent, the Woodstock Nation of 1994 lumbered home Monday from the sloppy festival grounds like a column of walking dead.

They died smiling.For all the rain and mud, the filthy toilets and lack of showers, the delays and organizational foul-ups, there were few regrets. Tired, wet and hungry, people left in a sort of grumbling bliss.

"It's been awesome. This is going to go down in history," said Joe Walsh of Ridgefield, Conn. "I'll remember it - how long will I remember it? Forever, I guess."

But it wasn't all peace and love in this instant city of 350,000.

Some who bought the $135 tickets never got in, stranded in parking lots miles from the site when shuttle bus service unraveled. As many as 150,000 people got in free as security slackened.

Others fled bad vibes.

Gail Tosh, 26, of Baltimore arrived Saturday morning and left just a few hours later without seeing any of the bands.

"It's violent, it's scary," she said by telephone from her mother's house in Syracuse. "There were no signs telling you where to go and what to do. People are falling down on the ground, and people are closing in on top of them. There was no form of crowd control. And it was a nasty crowd, not a nice crowd."

Organizers had hoped to get all ticket-holders into the concert. Promoter John Scher conceded that promoters might have to be make refunds to those who didn't make it.

Finally, Woodstock '94 was about the music. Counting the all-night dance raves and small bands that played till dawn, it was essentially nonstop rock 'n' roll for almost 72 hours.

Most of the 40-odd acts put on memorable shows, from Joe Cocker's reprise of his classic performance at the 1969 Woodstock to Salt 'n' Pepa's slinky stage histrionics.

Peter Gabriel closed the show early Monday with "Biko," his tribute to the martyred South African activist Steve Biko, who died in 1977 in police custody.

"Hi, Woodstock," Gabriel said. "This is your festival. This is your mud."

As the rain ended late Sunday afternoon, the sunset gleamed behind a rolling layer of grizzled gray clouds as Bob Dylan prepared to take the stage. During "Rainy Day Women No. 12 and 35," spectators chanted back at Dylan - "Everybody must get stoned" - and the scent of marijuana rose through the air.

With people ankle-deep in mud and awash in a kaleidoscope of tie-dye, this Woodstock resembled the original on Max Yasgur's farm in Bethel, 55 miles southwest. But there were obvious differences.

"It's Yuppie Woodstock. It's high-tech," said Rob Meager of Baltimore, who won four tickets to the festival from a radio station. "I used a cellular phone this morning to call my mom and tell her I was fine."

Some concertgoers mocked the official merchandising of pricey memorabilia.

Rudy Boyer and Tom Budai wandered the crowd with a tray of paper cups filled with "Woodstock Souvenir Mud" at $3 a cup, either creamy or chunky style. They found a taker.

"One person," Budai said, "and he was really stupid."

The festival site was still abuzz with people this morning, talking about the show as they continued to stream out. Smoke from campfires curled up on hillsides as they took down tents. Police said it could be late tonight or Tuesday morning before the traffic clears out.

Four deaths were reported, including a man who died of complications from diabetes and another from a ruptured spleen for which he had been treated before coming to Woodstock. Vickie Kucinski, 25, and Rose Murphy, 21, both of Chicago, died in a car crash on their way home Sunday when the driver of their car fell asleep and drove into a bridge, state police said. The driver was charged with reckless driving.

Police made 14 arrests, including a man who assaulted a woman in a tent and then turned on police. More than 3,000 people were treated for mostly minor injuries.

People grumbled about food shortages, the disordered shantytowns of tents, the crush of the crowds, the scheduling mixups that forced lots of people to arrive late or not at all. Many left feeling the promoters put profit before concertgoers' safety and well-being.

Others were angry about paying $135 for tickets when thousands got in free.

Promoters had room for 48,100 cars at the shuttle sites, but haphazard parking ate up about 20 percent of the space, said John Iaccio of the state Transportation Department. The lots were closed Friday night, and ticket sales were cut off.