Honestly, I was scared. Although the festival is strictly for those 21 and up, the average age of attendees certainly hovered under 25, much like the last iconic festival held on the same spot, way back in 1969. It’s no coincidence that Mysteryland made its U.S. debut here in Sullivan County; in fact, the promotion was overloaded with references to the Woodstock Music Festival and the rich history that Mysteryland desired to catapult off of, and make history come alive with a new generation, a new angle and a new sound. Knowing little about the electronic music scene did not help to assuage my fear, and with trepidation and camera in hand, I entered, with The River Reporter’s Amanda Reed at my side, mopping my furrowed brow, assuring me that it was “going to be OK.” I don’t think I was the only one with jangled nerves. After all, “the festival is the first time since 1969 that the Town of Bethel has granted camping permits on the soil Mysteryland organizers refer to as ‘holy ground.’ Acts over the three-day festival included electronic music names like Steve Aoki, Nicky Romero, Kaskade and classics of the genre, like Moby,” (www.mysteryland.com), and I think the townsfolk (like me) were nervous.
Imagine my surprise, then, to find that the 20,000 kids who turned out each day to dance and party were (dare I say) friendly, respectful and pretty darn cool. While there may have been some glitches in the organization, the festival went off with nary a hitch and I’ve seen less well behaved crowds on the grounds (www.bethelwoodscenter.org) during a rock concert. With the constant thrumming of bass beats echoing for miles around, we trudged through Friday’s mud (ring a bell?) visiting with the campers and taking hundreds of photos amidst a sea of revelers, most of whom were decked out in outlandish get-ups that appeared to be de rigueur for Mysteryland. As we rounded every corner, themed dance tents, DJ booths and art installations greeted us, providing rich opportunities for the lens. Rain pelted on and off during the 12 hours Amanda and I spent on Saturday, but never dampened the high spirits of the 20-somethings whose mantra, “eat, sleep, rave, repeat,” was evident throughout the long weekend. For those who believe that Mysteryland was not a good idea for Sullivan County, I humbly disagree. I spotted kids before, during and after supporting local eateries, buying souvenirs, and again, they were respectful, polite, neat and clean.