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Old hippies never die…

These “Phish Phans” were described as “sweet, considerate and respectful—a fantastic bunch” by camping hostess Babette Shook Ross.


June 2, 2011

They go Phishing. Well, this old hippie did anyway. Sort of. With so much talk about the band “Phish” (that I had never heard of) coming to town, I debated with myself over how to write about it. I knew little about the group itself ( www.phish.com ), but from what I gathered, this was to be no ordinary concert at the Bethel Woods Performing Arts Center ( www.bethelwoodscenter.org ). It was to be more of an “event,” since the group (and their faithful followers) would be in Sullivan County for three days.

I discovered that Phish was a phenomenon of sorts, and that the legions of fans were a (tie) dyed-in-the-wool new generation of what some folks still call hippies. I was here in 1969, and understand that the Woodstock Experience was a once-in-a-lifetime, never to be repeated moment in history. That said, I gather there are thousands of Phish devotees who caravan from city to city, often camping out for days at a time in what has become, for many, an integral part of the experience.

On Thursday, the day before the first show, the flocks began arriving. Many had planned in advance regarding where and when they would set up camp; plenty had not, and somewhere in between, was a large number of (mostly) young people whose plans had to be changed at the 11th hour. I ran into a group of kids, asking for directions to the spot where they had reserved a campsite. We chatted about the history (and legacy) of Woodstock itself and I gave them my number, in case they had any trouble finding the place.

Sure enough, I got a call. Way past my bed time and during an incredible thunderstorm, these kids found themselves with no place to camp, no vehicle, abandoned by their “fair weather friends,” soaked to the bone and a tiny bit freaked out. Not sure what to do, but knowing I had to do something, I got out of bed.

“What if this was my child?” I asked myself, knowing full well that it could be. My 24-year-old daughter lives in San Francisco (the hippie capital of the world) and has tickets to see Phish in northern California later this summer. I knew that if something like this (heaven forbid) happened to her, I would like to think that there would be some old hippie (like me) out there willing to help. I had heard that Fiddlers Flea Market (www.fiddlers-flea-mar

ket.com) on Route 17B was going to be hosting campers for the event, so I gave them a late-night jingle.