PHOENIX, AZ — Roy Howard, who, with his wife Jeryl Abramson, waged a long-running legal battle with officials from the Town of Bethel, has died, according to numerous sources. Howard’s Facebook page, titled The Woodstock Guru, had several posts lamenting his passing.
On the site, Tommy Maher posted on January 29, “I am so deeply saddened today by the loss of one of my dearest and closest friends Mr. Roy Howard, who in my opinion is an American folk hero who always just tried to do the right thing by treating people right, and trying to protect their rights.”
An admirer named Bob Kristopher wrote, “Today, the world lost a true pioneer of the spirit of Woodstock. Roy Howard passed away, but his spirit will live on forever.”
Howard and Abramson have become inextricably linked to the 1969 Woodstock Festival because they purchased Yasgur’s Farm, where several Woodstock reunion weekends were held, attracting thousands of people. The farm was not the actual site of the original 1969 concert, but when Woodstock pilgrims turned up in town every year, they would find their way to Howard and Abramson’s place on Yasgur Road off State Route 17B.
Officials of the Town of Bethel charged that the couple never followed proper procedure for holding such a mass gathering and took repeated actions to shut down the reunions. In August 2006, would-be concertgoers were turned away from the annual reunion party by Bethel councilmen Richard Crumley and Bob Blais and also by Bethel constables, sheriff’s deputies and state police.
In 2011, with the Jam Band Phish booked to play three concerts over Memorial Day Weekend at nearby Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, Howard and Abramson once again entertained the thought of allowing thousands of people to camp on their property, but officials promised hefty fines if they went forward with those plans.
The day before the concert was to begin, Abramson left this message on her Facebook page: “The standoff between the Town of Bethel and Yasgur Road Productions has ended. They win. Upon reading quotes from town supervisor Daniel Sturm stating that the town intends to “hit us in our wallets” and after already receiving camping violations one week before people arrived, we know they mean business. The fines could be as much as $1,000 per violation, per parcel (there are five), for the duration of the permit which is 14 days. That’s $70,000 for the two weeks of the permit plus the $25,000 for the contempt of court.”
In recent years, the couple spent most of their time in Phoenix, AZ. They put the farm on the market in 2007, but according to tax records the couple still owns Yasgur’s Farm.