Dozens of local Woodstock veterans are gearing up to mark the 40th anniversary of the historic music festival with a free concert in Golden Gate Park in October called “West Fest.”

Although the original Woodstock was held from Aug. 15-18 in 1969, organizers said the San Francisco event is planned in October because the weather is better here at that time, and many bands are still touring in late summer.

Organizers are holding a media party in the city’s Mission District tonight to stir up interest in the event and to reminisce about old times.

“Woodstock changed my life for sure,” said Chris Olavsen, a San Francisco resident who attended all three days of Woodstock in 1969. “I looked at life differently afterward.”

Olavsen, now 61, was serving in the U.S. Navy and was stationed in Boston that summer. He and a friend got some camping equipment and headed to the concert.

“The lineup of the bands was pretty unreal,” he said.

Lee Houskeeper, a publicist who is working with the West Fest planners, was partially responsible for that lineup.

Houskeeper was an agent who helped book bands for Woodstock, so he shuttled artists from the hotel to the stage and spent the festival working behind the scenes.

He said he met Walter Cronkite’s daughter Kathy at the festival and later learned she had told her parents she was going to a concert, but hadn’t specified that it was Woodstock.

“We got a message saying her parents were very distraught,” Houskeeper said. “Her dad said he was calling in the National Guard. So we were worried we would be shut down not by the police and not by the National Guard, but by Walter Cronkite.”

One rainy day during the festival, Houskeeper said, Sly and the Family Stone were performing “I Want to Take You Higher” with about 150 people jumping on the stage.
Houskeeper was sitting on an amplifier when a stage manager came and told him to clear the stage.

Houskeeper ignored the manager, so the manager took him down below the stage, where 20 or 30 large men were holding up the stage as it sank into the mud.

“Potential disaster was averted so many times,” Houskeeper said.

The West Fest will take place in Golden Gate Park on Oct. 25 and will include music, food and storytelling.

Tonight’s party is meant to draw media attention to the event, but the general public is welcome, and West Fest organizers will be recruiting volunteers to help with the festival.

The party will begin at 7:30 p.m. at 2B1 Multi Media-3075 17th St., San Francisco.

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