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The Journal Gazette

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Tuesday, June 11, 2019 1:00 am

Venue pulls out of Woodstock 50

Associated Press

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – The fate of the Woodstock 50 festival was cast further into doubt Monday afternoon when Watkins Glen International announced it's not hosting the anniversary event.

Watkins Glen issued a two-sentence statement saying it had terminated the site license for the upstate New York festival “pursuant to provisions of the contract.”

A representative of the festival said a comment will be issued soon.

The festival, scheduled for Aug. 16-18, has faced a series of setbacks. Financial backer Amplifi Live announced April 29 it was canceling the festival and took back about $18 million, the remains of the $49 million it had put in.

Production company Superfly soon dropped out after tangling with organizers over how many people the Watkins Glen auto racing site could accommodate.

Woodstock co-founder and 50th anniversary festival organizer Michael Lang filed a lawsuit against the investor and insisted the show was still on.

A judge ruled May 16 that Amplifi, an arm of Japan-based marketing firm Dentsu, couldn't singlehandedly call off the show but also doesn't have to put the $18 million back into it while the dispute headed to arbitration.

Legal skirmishes have continued, but Woodstock 50 has so far lost bids to regain the $18 million. The organizers have said investment bank Oppenheimer & Co. signed on as a financial adviser to pull money together.

Meanwhile, the lawsuit shed light on how much work lay ahead. Major improvements, including roads and a temporary water system, needed to be made to the racetrack site, according to court documents and testimony.

And the total number of attendees – and, therefore, ticket sales – had been called into question, with organizers envisioning 150,000, but Superfly saying 65,000 was the “safe and appropriate capacity,” according to the documents.

The tentative lineup lists more than 70 acts, including contemporary stars Jay-Z, Miley Cyrus, Imagine Dragons, Halsey, Common and Janelle Monae, as well as classic rockers from the Woodstock era such as Santana, John Fogerty, Country Joe McDonald, Canned Heat, David Crosby and Robert Plant.

The same weekend, the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts – on the site of the original Woodstock festival, 150 miles southeast of Watkins Glen – will feature Santana, Fogerty and Ringo Starr in separate concerts, part of a year-long Season of Song & Celebration anniversary event.