Rob Duchene, Faith Agauas and Noel Shearer share their Woodstock stories with C&G Newspapers for the 50th anniversary of the festival.

Rob Duchene, Faith Agauas and Noel Shearer share their Woodstock stories with C&G Newspapers for the 50th anniversary of the festival.

Photo by Donna Dalziel


Remembering Woodstock

Local residents recall experiences on festival’s 50th anniversary

By: Brian Louwers | C&G Newspapers | Published August 15, 2019

 Photo by Donna Dalziel

Photo by Donna Dalziel

Royal Oak resident Rob Duchene’s original three-day ticket from the “Woodstock Music and Art Fair.” The festival was held in Bethel, New York from Aug. 15-17, 1969.

 Faith Agauas, of Sterling Heights, rode to Woodstock with friends, on the back of a motorcycle. “Other than having my children, I think that will be the one experience that totally made me who I am,” Agauas said.

Faith Agauas, of Sterling Heights, rode to Woodstock with friends, on the back of a motorcycle. “Other than having my children, I think that will be the one experience that totally made me who I am,” Agauas said.

Photo by Donna Dalziel

 Noel Shearer, of Royal Oak, spots a friend in the crowd in a photo published for the 50th anniversary of Woodstock.

Noel Shearer, of Royal Oak, spots a friend in the crowd in a photo published for the 50th anniversary of Woodstock.

Photo by Donna Dalziel

 Rob Duchene, of Royal Oak, went to Woodstock with friends and saw one of his favorite bands, Jefferson Airplane. “It was nothing but fun,” Duchene remembered. “I went to hear music and I experienced what turned out to be a cultural revolution.”

Rob Duchene, of Royal Oak, went to Woodstock with friends and saw one of his favorite bands, Jefferson Airplane. “It was nothing but fun,” Duchene remembered. “I went to hear music and I experienced what turned out to be a cultural revolution.”

Photo by Donna Dalziel

"It was just the experience of a lifetime. Other than having my children, I think that will be the one experience that totally made me who I am.”

Faith Agauas , Sterling Heights resident

METRO DETROIT — “By the time we got to Woodstock, we were half a million strong.”

Those words, written by Joni Mitchell and made famous by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, helped define a generation.   

Included in that number were, of course, legions of metro Detroiters who took off on motorcycles, left in vans and old cars, or rode with family caravans toward a farm in Bethel, New York, where a mass of humanity was gathering during turbulent times near the close of the 1960s.  

If the decade was a story of cultural change and social transformation, Woodstock was the exclamation point. Billed as “Three Days of Peace and Music,” the festival, by all accounts from those interviewed for this story, lived up to that. The music was legendary. Peace reigned despite logistical challenges on-site. Love won. Violence was simply not a part of the story.

For three days Aug. 15-17, 1969, those gathered tried to put aside the heartbreak of the Vietnam War, a decade of civil rights struggles and political unrest, and fears of an uncertain future.

To commemorate the festival’s 50th anniversary, a group of local residents shared their Woodstock experiences with C & G Newspapers.  


‘You could hear the music everywhere. Everywhere. It was wonderful.’
Noel Shearer was still in high school when she joined a group of neighbors on Ferndale Avenue in Birmingham to plan a road trip to the music festival in upstate New York.

There were 35 of them, including friends and family members, who piled into vehicles and headed for Woodstock.

“People that went were between 4 years old and 35. There were a couple of moms and their kids,” said Shearer, now living in Royal Oak.

Her grandmother was in the restaurant business, and, unlike many others who descended on farmer Max Yasgur’s land where the festival was held, Shearer and her companions towed a trailer of food behind their gunmetal blue Plymouth Valiant. A pack of college guys from the block left first and took the group’s big canvas tents.  

Shearer said her mother thought she and two of her sisters were going to a music festival “like Interlochen.”

“We went to see Arlo Guthrie and Jimi Hendrix, and the only people we didn’t see were Arlo Guthrie and Jimi Hendrix,” Shearer said.

The group in the Valiant ran into traffic that stretched for miles outside the festival site.

“We were in line and we saw a little green sports car coming down the road. All of a sudden it headed right toward us,” Shearer said. “They got out and asked us if we were from Birmingham, Michigan.”

As it turned out, it was Yasgur’s son, who’d met the advance party of college boys when they arrived days earlier. Shearer said he led them, with the trailer full of food they’d towed, to where the group was camped.

Despite all of their planning, they hadn’t bought tickets. They planned to buy them at the gate, but that eventually became unnecessary.

“They just let everybody in for free,” Shearer said.

They spent the next three days camping and soaking up what would become a defining moment of the 1960s.

“I think the biggest thing is the music was incredible,” Shearer remembered. “I just thought it was amazing. We were far away from the stage because there were kids and everything. We would walk about a mile to the stage. We walked through the woods and we would go by the hog farm, and they had a stage. It was just incredible to walk through the woods and see all those people, and you could hear the music everywhere. Everywhere. It was wonderful.”


‘I went to hear music, and I experienced what turned out to be a cultural revolution.’
Rob Duchene was getting ready to spend a year abroad studying at the University of Sheffield in England when he heard about plans for the Woodstock festival. Still to this day a huge fan of Jefferson Airplane, that was the band he went to see.

“My sister and brother-in-law loaned me their blue Chevy station wagon, and I got four friends to go,” said Duchene, now living in Royal Oak.

The group left Detroit and stopped in New York City, where his sister lived, and they avoided the rain that fell at the festival on Friday night. The next morning, they made their way to Bethel.

“As soon as we got off the highway onto the two-lane blacktop that led to the festival site, it was clear that this was going to be a slog,” Duchene said. “Traffic was stop and go, and more stop than go.”

After repeated warnings about a lack of water and other dire conditions at the site from those retreating from the festival along the road, the group split.

“Two chose to stay with the car while three of us decided we’d come this far, we might as well press ahead,” Duchene said.

He remembers locals watching the show as those bound for the site walked or hopped onto the backs of cars to cover the 15 miles to the festival. Some locals offered water. Some tried to sell it.

“I have to say that no one got ugly, neither the kids nor the locals,” Duchene said. “It helped that Saturday was lovely.”

He said he sat on a hillside once inside the festival grounds, listening to music from what he called “one of the best lineups ever to appear.”     
“Creedence Clearwater Revival was great. Santana was as well,” Duchene said. “I read that Peter Townshend said he thought they (The Who) were lousy that night — they ended at sunrise — but I enjoyed their set. Then my beloved Jefferson Airplane came on at sunrise, and they were spectacular.”

Duchene said he enjoyed the music on Sunday until it started to rain again. Separated from his friends, he started back to the car but didn’t feel alone.

“It was nothing but fun,” he remembered. “I went to hear music, and I experienced what turned out to be a cultural revolution.”

He shared a parting memory that has stayed with him all these years.

“Before heading back to Detroit, I talked to another kid who had a VW Beetle who discovered that the only operational gear was reverse. He lived in New York and was determined to get to work the next day,” Duchene said. “The last I saw of him was his Beetle entering the highway in reverse. I have always wondered how far he got!”


‘It was just the experience of a lifetime’
Faith Agauas was 15 in August 1969 and getting ready to start high school in Madison Heights. Destiny led her to Woodstock that summer.

“I wasn’t supposed to be there. I was supposed to be doing something else,” said Agauas, who now lives in Sterling Heights. “I got on the bike with a couple of friends, and off we went.”

Agauas said she grew up in Detroit near the Michigan State Fairgrounds and remembers the chaos of the 1967 riots. She also remembers the many live acts that played the fairgrounds.

“Everyone on our block had summer jobs there. It was pretty much a part of our daily existence, music,” she said.

When Agauas heard about plans for the festival, she was one of just a few friends who made the decision to go. There were eventually four of them: Agauas, her friend and two boys. The boys drove motorcycles and the girls rode on the back.

“I think the hardest part was getting from where we parked our bikes to where we entered into the area where the festival was,” Agauas said. “We had a really long walk. We tried to stay together as much as possible. We made a pact to stay together.”

She said she witnessed great music over the three days that followed.

“I think for me, it was Crosby, Stills & Nash. I hear their music today, I still cry,” Agauas said. “And then Jimi Hendrix. When he did “The Star Spangled Banner,”one, you’re proud as hell because you’re an American. It was like an out-of-body experience to watch that. To hear that music come out of the guitar, and what it did to people.”

Agauas said other impressions about Woodstock have stayed with her through the years.

“It really was a perfect storm. It all meshed perfectly together. I get a little tingle in my mind whenever I hear some things. I was a part of that,” she said.

“The best thing about it, and I think that’s why it has carried through me so far, it didn’t matter if you came in a caravan, if you came in a van, or if you walked, or if you came with a bunch of groceries or if you had nothing. If  you needed something, someone else had it. And everyone shared everything. It was just the experience of a lifetime,” Agauas said. “Other than having my children, I think that will be the one experience that totally made me who I am.”