Woodstock lives on in one man's heart -- and basement

Richard Williams stands in front of the peace sign etched in his back yard to the 1969 music festival Woodstock. Williams guesses the sign reaches between 60 and 70 feet across. His original peace sign was created in 2007 for the “Summer of Love."
Richard Williams stands in front of the peace sign etched in his back yard to the 1969 music festival Woodstock. Williams guesses the sign reaches between 60 and 70 feet across. His original peace sign was created in 2007 for the “Summer of Love." Photo by Jessica Williams.

Originally published June 25, 2009.

As society moves forward, Richard Williams of rural Huntington wants to make sure people don't forget to look back.

Williams grew up in the '60s, and he knows just about everything about the era to prove it.

He has a library of more 200 books on the generation and tons of DVDs and videotapes. But what's most impressive is his love for Woodstock and all the keepsakes he owns from the monumental event that have piled up his basement.

Among his 500 records, numerous posters, banners, knick-knacks, autographs (one of which is Bob Dylan, who Williams has seen perform 22 times) and original programs and tickets, Williams says his favorite item in the collection is a rock he picked up on his 1994 trip to a Woodstock anniversary concert that was a part of the original stage.

"You name it, I got it," Williams says, referring to his collection.

He has also visited the original site one other time.
The original Woodstock was a three-day concert that took place Aug. 15-17, 1969, in Bethel, NY. An estimated 500,000 guests attended the music festival, which took place on 600 acres.

Williams attended the 25th anniversary concert in 1994, but wasn't allowed to go to the original in New York because his dad said no; he was about 15 or 16 and living outside of Madison, WI.

He says not only does he remember that the Vietnam War was going on at the time of Woodstock, but that he was hearing all of this new music he had never heard before.

"I just want to make sure the '60s don't get left behind, 50 years from now, when we boomers are gone. I hope somebody still looks back in history books and (says), ‘wow, those guys had a good time back then.' It was important, not just for the music ... but culturally, everything changed in the '60s," Williams explains.
He thinks the '60s are not just an unimportant part of history.

"To me, it means everything because it's when we, as a boomer generation, started to change things. We pushed the limits, we started rebelling," he says.

However, most of the rebelling was done without violence, Williams says. "It was more innocent than people think ... There was a lot more innocence back then than there is now, really."

He also says about the hippies of the generation, "Peace and love really do mean something (to them)."

Musically, Williams doesn't think any other era has been nearly as influential.

"I think there's been concerts as big, as far as people, but not as important. That one defined our generation," he says.

Williams says of his financially insured collection, "I have it in my will to make sure this stuff gets distributed to somebody who respects it and knows what it means."