Too Little, Too Late: Woodstock 50 Permit Denied by Town of Vernon

Update (July 10, 11:15 am):

Woodstock promoters have issued a statement after being denied a permit by the Town of Vernon to hold the festival at Vernon Downs in August. They will be appealing the codes enforcement officer’s ruling to the Town of Vernon Planning Board. The board has 30 days to rule on the appeal. A spokesperson for Woodstock issued the following statement late Tuesday:

Photo by Steve Malinski

In response to the denial of an event permit by the Town of Vernon, Woodstock 50 believes certain political forces may be working against the resurrection of the Festival. Local reports claim Woodstock’s filing for the permit was “incomplete” but that is not the case. Woodstock 50 officials were informed by the Town of Vernon that most questions had been answered and asked only that Woodstock submit medical, safety/security and traffic plans by this past Sunday, which it did. With a venue chosen, financing assembled and many of the artist’s supporting Woodstock’s 50th Anniversary event, the organizers are hopeful that their appeal and reapplication tonight will prevail without further political interference.


Syracuse.com is reporting that the Town of Vernon has denied an event application to hold Woodstock’s 50th-anniversary at Vernon Downs Casino Hotel. The event was scheduled to be held Aug. 16-18 at the harness racing facility in rural Central New York.

Town attorney Vincent Rossi told the site that the application was submitted late and was “dramatically incomplete,” while also adding that Woodstock or Vernon Downs can file an appeal with the town planning board within five days. The board would then have 30 days to rule on the appeal.

Town Code Enforcement Officer Jody Thieme, in the town’s denial letter, cited a provision in the town code that calls for explicit plans for an event, including sanitation, parking, traffic control, emergency first aid, and evacuation procedures. The application, which was filed on July 3, lacked supporting documents detailing these requirements.

Vernon Downs Harness Racing Track

Additionally, town code requires applications to be submitted 120 days prior to an event, which would have been in April. Woodstock filed their initial application in June, according to officials.

Town residents and local law enforcement expressed concerns over the event at a town meeting held Monday night. The standing-room-only meeting was attended by nearly 100 people, many worried about the traffic, noise, and vandalism from the expected 65,000 attendees.

Oneida County Sheriff Rob Maciol and Oneida County Emergency Management Director Kevin Revere have spoken against hosting the event since the possibility of the Vernon site was announced, citing the lack of time needed to properly put it together.

At Monday’s meeting Maciol went a step further, saying, “It is impossible to ensure the safety of the public at this point. If you’re asking me right now, I’m not confident in saying the public will be safe.”

Revere added, “Any emergency management director will say there isn’t enough time to do this properly. The less time you have to plan this stuff, the margin of error goes up tremendously.”

With a mere 38 days left to pull off the festival, the fate of Woodstock 50 is seemingly sealed for good. The festival’s future has been in flux since April when original investors, Dentsu Aegis Network, effectively canceled the festival, sending the matter to court. Woodstock organizers sought to recoup $18.5 million they claimed was illegally taken from a festival account by Dentsu. That claim was ultimately denied at the appellate level.

Promoter Michael Lang had previously announced 80 acts to perform on three stages. Artists originally scheduled to perform include: Jay-Z, Miley Cyrus, The Killers, The Lumineers, Dead & Company, The Raconteurs, Chance the Rapper, Imagine Dragons, Halsey, Santana, Greta Van Fleet, and John Fogerty.

Woodstock officials have not yet commented on the town’s decision or whether they would file an appeal.

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