Woodstock 50 music festival called off due to 'unforeseen setbacks'

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The troubled Woodstock 50 anniversary music festival planned for August was officially canceled on Wednesday, with organizers blaming a series of “unforeseen setbacks.”

The three-day festival, meant to mark the 50th anniversary of the famed 1969 celebration of peace and music, was planned for Aug. 16-18.

“Woodstock 50 today announced that the three-day festival to celebrate its 50th anniversary has been canceled,” the organizers said in a statement.

“We are saddened that a series of unforeseen setbacks has made it impossible to put on the festival we imagined with the great lineup we had booked and the social engagement we were anticipating,” said Michael Lang, one of the original producers of the 1969 event.

The cancellation was widely expected after a troubled five months in which organizers were turned down at two proposed sites in upstate New York, lost funding and headliners including rapper Jay-Z and pop star Miley Cyrus pulled out.

Tickets never went on sale for the festival.

Organizers last week made a last ditch attempt to put on a free, scaled down event at an amphitheater in Maryland, but several of the 80 or so acts began pulling out despite having already been paid.

Lang said in his statement that the smaller event in Maryland would have been aimed at raising funds for non profits fighting climate change and organizations encouraging Americans to vote in the 2020 U.S. general elections.

Woodstock 50 was first planned for the Watkins Glen motor racing venue in upstate New York, but the site pulled out in June. Organizers then attempted in vain to seek permits in Vernon, New York.

The nonprofit Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, the current owner of the field where the 1969 Woodstock festival took place, also scaled back plans earlier this year for a three-day anniversary event. It will instead host separate concerts by Ringo Starr, Santana and the Doobie Brothers.

“My thoughts turn to Bethel and its celebration of our 50th Anniversary to reinforce the values of compassion, human dignity, and the beauty of our differences embraced by Woodstock,” Lang said in his statement on Wednesday.

Reporting by Jill Serjeant, editing by G Crosse and Susan Thomas