Ravinia Festival

Every type of music can be seen and heard representing the most celebrated, diverse music festival; the oldest in the United States opening in 1904. Ravinia, for me, brings memories of first seeing the Chicago Symphony orchestra; a mesmerizing experience for a young Baby boomer girl with her family. For my grandmother, it was known for the best opera in the 1920’s. For a dear friend, it was Earth, Wind and Fire. Born and raised in Chicago, my Aunt remembered the trains that would stop at the entrance. Trains still stop at Ravinia’s historic entrance today, serviced by the Metra Union Pacific North line, making it the only private train stop left in Illinois.

When it was originally built, besides including an amusement park, Ravinia offered a Casino, Grandstand, Music Pavilion, and a Theater which showed live performances as well as motion pictures. From 1919 through 1931, Ravinia was known as the “summer opera capital of the world and after the Great Depression, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra became a mainstay and still performs today. For five decades, Ravinia has made music more accessible through fine education programs now called Reach Teach Play® so attending student orchestra performances is not uncommon.

Today Ravinia operates as a self-owned nonprofit—the Ravinia Festival Association—still overseen by a volunteer board of business and community leaders, but now managed by President & CEO Jeffrey P. Haydon. The park and Pavilion are available for limiting seating this year. You can still bring your own food for picnics. A non-for profit festival shop is open for gifts and souvenirs. Ravinia Market, located in one huge indoor/outdoor dining pavilion, features five mini restaurants serving burgers, paninis, tacos, pizza, and barbeque. Dining options are run by Levy Restaurants (Spiaggia, River Roast, Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap).

Ravinia is hiring for all positions this summer including front and back-of-house positions for food operations.

50th Woodstock Anniversary

I really wanted to go in 1969. I still want to go in 2019. Back then, I picked out the shirt I would wear for three days;  a peasant blouse with puffed sleeves that was an orange color with yellow flowers. But nobody asked me to go with them. I was too young to drive, just graduating from junior high. I knew one acquaintance that was going but he was much older who had been drafted to Vietnam. He didn’t want some kid in his car and my mother would not let me go anyway.

Many felt the same way as I did but no one ever expected the numbers that showed up and that Woodstock 1969  would be considered the greatest festival of all time.Only two people died at Woodstock 1969 though over 80 were arrested on drug charges and we did see the news reports on TV. Because of the torrential rains, many adults considered it a disaster and local businesses were threatening lawsuits, but the kids, as they were called, were happy. The bands were just beginning with the exception of Joplin and Hendrix. Carlos Santana was only about 13.  Now, the grounds are the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts; considered a National Historic site. No festival has been the same since. They have tried numerous Woodstock festivals through the decades and they just didn’t work.

Woodstock was a music festival held between August 15–18, 1969, which attracted an audience of more than 400,000. Billed as “An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music”, it was held at Max Yasgur’s 600-acre dairy farm near White Lake in Bethel, New York, 43 miles southwest of Woodstock. The festival was headlined by legendary performances of Joe Cocker, Hot Tuna (Jefferson Airplane), Starship (Jefferson Airplane), Joan Baez, Country Joe McDonald, Richie Havens, Melanie, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Levon Helm (The Band), Arlo Guthrie, John Sebastian, Leslie West Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Grateful Dead, and Santana. Santana will be playing at the 50th in Bethel.

There are two festivals that are gaining popularity throughout the country to celebrate the 50th anniversary. Woodstock 50 is a planned American music festival, scheduled to be held on August 16–18, 2019, at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland. Supposedly a free concert supported by Michael Lang, line up is not official and some have dropped out.

Bethel Wood Center for the Performing Arts on the original 1969 Woodstock site is  constantly holding concerts, festivals; a year round center for events, programs inspiring others in the arts as they are a (501) (3) (C) Arlo Guthrie will perform on the festival field, 50 years to the day that he played Woodstock. Guthrie’s performance will be followed by a screening on the field of the Woodstock documentary. Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band will perform on Aug 16th at the Bethel Woods pavilion. Woodstock veterans Edgar Winter and Blood, Sweat and Tears are also performing that night. On Aug. 17, Carlos Santana will return to Bethel for a show that will feature the Doobie Brothers as the opening act.

The still married, husband and wife pictured on the iconic album cover wrapped in a blanket will also be attending the 50th Bethel Woods festival.

My daughter walked the grounds of Bethel Woods on a trip to visit family a few years ago; a man who worked there attended  the original Woodstock and showed her where Jimmy Hendrix played. “An old man,” she said. Ah, Yes…that is what we have become. At that time, the grounds were quiet but she was impressed since she has been a follower of rock and roll beginnings.

Though, I have not gone yet, that’s what I want to do….soon. Not necessarily to listen to music, but to spend that quiet moment just to see, to relive the news reports, to imagine, the peace, the love and a vision of my young self in the pretty peasant shirt I had picked out sitting and experiencing such a treasured moment in time……..50 years ago.