Rain, mud and cheap wine

  • Frank Prondecki holds his tickets to Woodstock. Staff Photo/Andy Castillo—

  • Frank Prondecki holds his tickets to Woodstock. Staff Photo/Andy Castillo—

  • Frank Prondecki holds his tickets to Woodstock, which are now framed at Erving’s French King Restaurant. Staff Photo/Andy Castillo

Staff Writer
Published: 8/15/2019 8:22:06 AM

Fifty years ago this week, Frank Prondecki, crammed with five friends in a van headed for Woodstock, realized the grid-locked traffic they were sitting in wasn’t going to budge.

The group parked a mile away from the festival and walked the rest of the way, with little idea what would await.

They became six of roughly 400,000 people who flooded Max Yasgur’s dairy farm in Bethel from Aug. 15 to 18, 1969 to attend the iconic music festival.

“We really didn’t have a clue what was going to happen,” Prondecki recalled. “We just went to a concert. We never knew it was going to be that big or I probably wouldn’t have gotten a ticket.”

Prondecki, 69, who owns Erving’s French King Restaurant, bought three festival tickets at $6 for each day after his brother convinced him to come along.

While he realized the festival was momentous after it finished, he admitted Woodstock was unpleasant to attend at times. Mainly, he remembers enduring “rain, mud and lightning.”

“You had to step over everyone to get close to the bands and stuff,” Prondecki said. “The weather was terrible.”

Prondecki saw some musicians, he said, though could only remember Jimi Hendrix’s performance.

“They say if you remember, you weren’t there,” Prondecki said.

Music was only part of the experience, he said. He spent most of the time “people watching and hanging out with friends.”

He couldn’t remember where he slept, explaining that people “crashed wherever you could” — in tents, in cars or the grass. Food and drink were in short supply, he said. The festival had one restaurant that quickly sold out of its stock, he said, and “water was at a premium.” Eventually, organizers imported more supplies, he said. To stay hydrated, the group indulged in some “cheap, cheap wine” they’d brought along.

Amid the chaos of Woodstock, the six-man group lost one member during the festival, Prondecki said. The man, an Erving resident, vanished in the crowds. The group eventually gave up their search.

“We couldn’t find him so we just went home,” Prondecki said.

The next time Prondecki saw the man, who he said is named Walter, was two years ago when he came into the French King Restaurant. Walter told Prondecki ​​​that he’d come down with food poisoning at the festival.

“We had a little chat,” he said. “I had to smirk because was it food poisoning? Or was it something else? I don’t know.”

Reach Grace Bird at gbird@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 280.

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