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    Laguna Woodstock: It’s been a long, strange trip
    • July 9, 2023

    By David Dearing


    It’s been 15 years since the first Laguna Woods Baby Boomers’ Laguna Woodstock. We’re all still boomers, just a bit older and perhaps a bit creakier.

    But let it be known that we can still rock.

    As we have evolved over those 15 years, so has Laguna Woodstock. What makes people want to don their hippie attire and show up at Clubhouse 2 every year?

    “It’s not only the music, but the whole ambience,” says Susie Swain, 65, co-chair of Laguna Woodstock 2023, who has been to seven of the Village music fests. “It is so much fun spending the day eating, drinking and dancing with old friends and meeting new friends.”

    Co-chair Darlene Marvin, 68, whose first Laguna Woodstock was in 2019, is “impressed with the atmosphere and camaraderie of so many residents.”

    “The bands that year were amazing,” she adds. “I danced day and night.”

    Former Baby Boomers president and Woodstock organizer Kathy Gaskins has been to eight Laguna Woodstocks.

    “It is a very fun happening, laid-back, fun to dress up, good memories each year build on the popularity,” she says.

    The Laguna Woods Boomers Club’s Laguna Woodstock has been rocking the Village since 2009, bringing residents dressed in their best hippie garb.
    (Courtesy of David Dearing)

    Per Johanson, left, and Ted Yanchulov enjoy Laguna Woodstock 2019, marking the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Woodstock festival.
    (Photo by Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

    Laguna Woods residents check out banners with classic hippie slogans during the Laguna Woodstock, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the original Woodstock festival, on in 2019.
    (Photo by Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

    Music fans dance on the patio in front of Laguna Woods Clubhouse 2 as Lifetime Rockers play during Laguna Woodstock in 2022.
    (Courtesy of David Dearing)

    Canopies pack the lawn in front of Laguna Woods Clubhouse 2 during a Laguna Woodstock festival.
    (Courtesy of David Dearing)

    Laguna Woods Boomers board members Barbara Harris and Alan Gorsky had the idea in 2009 to stage Laguna Woodstock.
    (Courtesy of David Dearing)

    Laguna Woods resident David Dearing sings with The Village Midiots at a Laguna Woodstock festival. The band first played at the music fest in 2011.
    (Courtesy of David Dearing)

    Friends have their photo taken next to signs posted on palm trees at a past Laguna Woodstock music festival.
    (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)



    Let’s take a look at how Laguna Woodstock has found its way to 2023, beginning with its inception in 2009 by Baby Boomers board members Barbara Harris, 74, and Allan Gorsky, 78.

    Gorsky, who was at the original Woodstock in 1969, thought the weather was better here in 2009: “No rain, no mud, and CH 2 has toilet paper.”

    That year there was only one band, mostly members of Close Enough.

    The following year, Laguna Woodstock was billed as “a celebration of an event that defined a generation and the music that changed the world.” Music was provided by My Generation, again made up of musicians from Close Enough plus special guests. Tickets were $5, and festivalgoers got three hours of music.

    In 2011, the fest grew slightly, adding the newly formed rock band The Village Midiots, made up entirely of Village residents. Music was provided for four hours, with the cost still only $5. Around 500 music fans showed up. Laguna Woodstock was catching on.

    Woodstock 4 in 2012 saw little change, with music provided once again by My Generation and The Midiots. Around 500 folks danced from 4 to 8 p.m.

    In 2013, $5 bought attendees a full six hours of music. Full Spectrum was added, a band that played locally and became a Boomers favorite. Also added was food catered by the 19 Restaurant so that rockers didn’t have to bring their own, although many did.

    As the festival grew in size, so did the attendance. Exact figures are hard to find, but by this time, attendance was well over 500.

    Three hours, four hours, six hours, Laguna Woodstock was growing fast.

    Woodstock 6 in 2014 was scaled back a bit with only two bands performing, The Midiots and Love Saves the Day featuring Ruby K. Love Saves the Day has played almost every year since and has become the Boomers’ go-to band. Ruby does a mean Janis Joplin.

    2015 was little changed, with just two bands. Tickets were still only $5 for three hours of nonstop rock.

    But say goodbye to the last $5 Woodstock.

    In 2016, the price doubled to $10, but so did the hours of hippie-shaking dance music provided by Woodstock Mud. The lead singer kept ’60s and ’70s dance tunes coming one after another. Rounding out the evening was the ever-popular Love Saves the Day. Laguna Woodstock was gaining steam, with nearly 700 attendees.

    The format for 2017 was little changed as Woodstock Mud and Love Saves the Day were the headliners. The price of $10 could get rockers four hours of peace, love and music, as the flyer stated. And the crowds kept coming as expected.

    On July 28, 2018, celebrants could begin setting up for the day at 7 a.m., and they certainly showed up even before then to try to lay claim to their favorite spot on the lawn in front of Clubhouse 2. Here was the plan for the day: Set up the canopy by 7 a.m., buy the wristband for $15 – up another $5 – at 8, spend the rest of the day dancing, eating and drinking.

    More money, more music. Beginning at 2 p.m., The Village Folk entertained inside the clubhouse for an hour, followed by Dutch of Fiz on the patio. Next came crowd favorite Full Spectrum. They played for an hour and a half, yielding the stage to Love Saves the Day, who rocked for two full hours until 8:30. And 700 boomers danced until exhausted.

    The “Aquarian Exposition,” as the original Woodstock in 1969 was billed, was at Max Yasgur’s farm in upstate New York.

    Fast forward 50 years to 2019. The Boomers’ organizing committee, co-chaired by Diane Johanson and Nadine Asner, pulled out all the stops.

    ”It’s a wonderful experience to see so many people together in one place at one time for love, friendship, fun, and dancing. It’s worth all the work,” Johanson says.

    Asner was at the original Woodstock. “It was an honor to chair and co-chair (Laguna) Woodstock on three occasions. The best part of those events was seeing the enjoyment and comradeship that it brought to the community which is what I experienced at Woodstock 1969.”

    Here’s what $20 got concert-goers in 2019: music from 12:30 to 9 p.m. featuring back-patio local bands and outside bands. New that year were three bands: Santana Smooth (a Santana cover band), Fortunate Son (a Creedence cover), The Who Experience and local band The Woods Combo. Returning to lend their talents were Dutch of Fiz and The Village Folk.

    But that’s not all wristbanders got. There was the Woodstock Cafe, the Woodstock Museum, vendors, crafts, face painting and Tarot reading, among other attractions. Word has it that over 1,000 people attended.

    The next stop should be 2020, but Covid-19 interrupted the ever-growing experience.

    In 2021, Laguna Woodstock was rocking once again, stronger than ever. Everywhere around the clubhouse, festivalgoers enjoyed ways to spend their Saturday. A cash bar, face painting, crafts, free ice cream and a free photo booth drew people’s attention.

    Local favorites Band X, The Nomads and Rock of Ages played on the back patio. On the front patio, beginning at 3:30 p.m., American Made Band fired up the crowd for two hours. At 5:30, Southland Mega Groove took the stage for a rousing  two sets. Hardly giving tuckered-out, hippie-clad, happy-faced revelers time to catch their collective breaths, at 7:30, Love Saves the Day appeared onstage to close out the night. The $20 admission price was money well-spent!

    Woodstock 2022 was a bargain as wristbands were only $13 and could be bought online. Henna artists were added to provide tattoos and other body art.

    However, as always, music was the main draw, with The Nomads as the only local band, Lifetime Rockers added to the bill, and returning to wrap up the day’s merriment was once again Love Saves the Day.

    Finally, Laguna Woodstock 2023 was spectacular. Organizers Marvin and Swain worked nearly a year putting the event together.

    Hippies of all descriptions danced all day. Four bands made their debut: Tricia Freeman, Art of Sax, Southbound and Crossroads, and the popular Who Experience returned.

    With all that Laguna Woodstock 2023 offered, admission was still a reasonable $20, less than the price of a concert or a decent meal out.

    Woodstock certainly has evolved from its beginnings in 2009 – with two Boomers board members thinking the idea of celebrating the “Aquarian Exposition” was a good one – to 2023, with five bands and attendance well north of 1,000.

    Thanks to all the volunteers who over the years brought us hippies another opportunity to feel the peace and love while dancing to the greatest music of a generation.

    ​ Orange County Register