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By the Time They Get to Woodstock . . . : Culture: 25th-anniversary revival of the music festival draws diverse county residents.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

They are about as different as two people can be.

She is a management consultant in Mission Viejo who owns her own home, scuba-dives and commands a comfortable income. At 44, she sometimes reminisces about the hippie days of her youth while jetting around the world for business or pleasure.

He is a 26-year-old college student from Anaheim who baby-sits for extra cash and, until recently, had never been on an airplane.

For three days this weekend, however, the two will share a place and an expectation. The place: an 840-acre field in Saugerties, N.Y., where an estimated 250,000 music fans are gathering for the 25th anniversary of Woodstock, which begins today. The expectation: a good time and, who knows, perhaps even a meaningful experience.

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“I’ve always wanted to do something like this,” said Victor Virgen, the Anaheim college student. “Something’s just telling me to go, so I’m going. It’s wild.”

Said Ann Bailey, the management consultant: “I’m going to be with friends and be outside and camp out and be dirty for three days and break out of the daily-ness of my life. I’m going to celebrate.”

Neither attended the original Woodstock music festival, held in August of 1969. In Virgen’s case, the reason is obvious: He was 2 years old at the time.

Bailey said she can’t remember exactly why she didn’t go to Woodstock. A 19-year-old student at the University of Colorado in Boulder, she spent that summer in her hometown of Zanesville, Ohio, vacillating, she said, between her desire to join the counterculture and the pressure exerted by the more conservative expectations of her parents.

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News of Woodstock, she recalled, made up her mind.

“It was a turning point,” she said of the event that became a cultural watershed. “It shocked everybody that so many people could come together in that kind of celebration. . . . It was the dropping away of rigidity and prejudice, the (ushering in of) open-mindedness and the ability to make decisions for ourselves rather than do what the government or our parents told us.”

Bailey spent the next several years living the prototype hippie lifestyle. Never far from her backpack and sleeping bag, she vagabonded from coast to coast attending music festivals and sampling alternative culture.

Eventually, she settled down, got married, got divorced, started a business. But she never forgot about Woodstock and all it had meant.

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“One of the things it meant,” Bailey said, “was openly caring about other people--living your life as an open book. Part of Woodstock ’94 is a reunion, not necessarily of the same people who were there but of people who have the same spirit.”

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Not everyone believes that such a spirit will be present. Some critics have characterized the new Woodstock as an over-hyped, high-priced event that will lack the innocence and spontaneity of the original.

Virgen said that for most of his life, indeed, the spirit that Bailey describes has been elusive. Though he was too young to experience the original festival, he said, he grew up hearing about it from older friends.

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“I always felt like I missed out,” said the student, who sports a goatee, a ponytail and silver studs in his pierced ears. “It would have been cool to have been there; everybody got along with everybody, it was fun, everyone partied and had a good time.

“Today everything has changed. People are uptight and worried about money.”

Neither he nor Bailey harbor great expectations that the 1994 event will bear any strong outward resemblance to its famous predecessor. Where the earlier event was freewheeling and drug-filled, they said, this one is likely to be comparatively sober and subdued.

Yet if even some of the original Woodstock spirit is present this weekend, attendees say, Woodstock ’94 will have served an important purpose.

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“Everyone is going to be out there to have fun,” said Virgen, who will celebrate his 27th birthday at the festival on Sunday.

Bailey sees a potentially deeper meaning. “I don’t think it will be as significant to people who don’t go there,” she said, “but for those who do, it will be a chance to pass the baton on to the next generation.”

And what is the message to be delivered to the next generation? Easy, the former hippie said: “Just be joyful, and carry that into your daily lives.”


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