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The forgotten festival that was bigger than Woodstock

The iconic festival Woodstock is one of the biggest musical events in history. The festival was held at Bethel, New York from 15-18 August 1969 and was visited by more than 400,000 people.

Prominent names such as Janice Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, The Who, Creedence Clearwater Revival and many others took part in the festival, which wanted to spread a message of peace and love.

The original planned length of the festival was 3 days, but it got extended for one more day. When the organizers of the event Michael Lang, John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, and Artie Kornfeld could not find a suitable venue, they decided to throw the party at a dairy farm owned by Max Yasgur.

The hippie gathering was a total success, and even though a few more events with the same name were held, none ever attained the fame of the original Woodstock.

What many people do not know, is that there was another festival held a few years after the famous event but which has now been forgotten, even though it was bigger than Woodstock.


The name of this forgotten event was The Summer Jam at Watkins Glen. The festival happened on 28 July 1973, at the Watkins Glen Grand Prix Raceway, New York.

The rock happening attracted approximately 600,000 visitors and entered the pages of the Guinness Book of World Records as the festival with the biggest audience at the time.


Often called as the “Forgotten Woodstock, this event had only 3 bands perform: The Grateful Dead, The Band, and the Allman Brothers Band. The concert was organized by Shelly Finkel and Jim Koplik, both experienced promoters, and was planned to last for 1 day.

However, thousands of concertgoers arrived at the venue on 27 July, one day before the event. Those who came earlier could also enjoy the soundcheck of the musicians, which also turned into be quite an event in its own right, as the Grateful Dead performed a two-hour concert and the remaining bands played many of their songs as well.


When the morning of 28th came, more and more rock fans arrived, and the target of the organizers was achieved: to put on a concert with a bigger audience than the one at Woodstock.

During the festival day, a heavy thunderstorm happen and the rain managed to interrupt the event for a while, but the music continued after the rain, turning the festival into a success story. The Grateful Dead performed first, followed by The Band, and The Allman Brothers Band were on stage last. The festival ended with an hour-and-a-half jam performance.

Read another story from us: These photos show the beautiful tradition of “Aloha Week Festival” in Hawaii in the 1970s

The memories of The Summer Jam at Watkins Glen faded and the festival is completely forgotten today. Shelly Finkel and Jim Koplik limited the 10 dollars tickets at 150,000, but many fans came without tickets, turning the festival into a spectacle. After the event, the media reported there were 50 people arrested, 4 died on the roads and one baby was born.

Nikola Simonovski

Nikola Simonovski is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News