Noppes' Woodstock memories

With the 40th anniversary of Woodstock generating nostalgia in the media, it’s worth remembering that UW-Green Bay Human Development Profs. Illene and Lloyd Noppe have a great story to tell about their own bizarre journey to the legendary festival. The two were working as counselors at Camp Willoway in northern Pennsylvania in 1969 when camp leadership naively thought it would be an enriching experience to load up 125 young teens for a field trip to what was pre-billed as the wholesome-sounding Woodstock Music and Arts Fair. On the occasion of the 25th anniversary in 1994, coinciding with that summer’s Woodstock II concert, Green Bay Press-Gazette writer (now a UW-Green Bay writing instructor) Terry Anderson shared the Noppes’ entertaining story, as follows…

Original Newspaper Clipping [PDF]

Rekindling Woodstock’s Spirit

The music fest sparks adventure for some, memories for others
By Terry Anderson
Press-Gazette – Friday, August 12, 1994

When Woodstock The Sequel begins today, some Green Bay area residents will be there and others will remember the original gathering.

“We’ve been talking about Woodstock for two months straight,” says Dianne Walker of Green Bay, who left for Saugerties, N.Y., Wednesday with her boyfriend, Ryan Metzner, and another couple. Walker doesn’t expect Woodstock, The Next Generation, to be a repeat of 1969. “It’s going to be 100 percent different than the first,” said Walker, noting the omnipresent marketing and planning for this event. “There’s no way our generation will be able to express our personality the way the first one did.”

Walker and friends will be camped out in a tent city and are prepared for hot, rainy weather. She estimates tickets, food and other items will bring the cost to about $250 per person. “I’m looking forward to Peter Gabriel and Santana. LIVE! Ryan’s looking forward to the Red Hot Chili Peppers,” she says. “I’m not looking forward to the rain and not showering.”

Lloyd and Ilene Noppe of DePere have indelible memories of Woodstock ’69. “I’m glad to keep the memories, but we were there under bizarre circumstances,” she recalls. “It was like being in a Fellini movie.” Back in August 1969, they were counselors at Camp Willoway in northern Pennsylvania. A camp leader had the notion that it might be fun to take the 12-to 16-year old campers to the Woodstock Music and Arts Fair. Expecting a quaint folk and art festival, camp supervisors had no idea what they were headed for as several yellow school buses loaded with 125 kids rolled into Woodstock. “We’re barreling down the New York Throughway singing 100 Bottles of Beer on The Wall and the Camp Willoway song.”

Then they arrived at Max Yasgur’s farm in the middle of the Woodstock Nation.

“We were young and pretty cleancut kids and I remember all of these people staring at us and we’re staring at them,” she says.

“Half our kids thought it was the greatest. The other half totally flipped out and were upset.”

The Willoway campers pitched their tents in a cow pasture on the edge of the scene. The muggy, gloomy night was punctuated by a ferocious thunderstorm. When they awoke, the cows had settled in among the plastic tents.

Meanwhile, hysterical parents hearing news reports of the Woodstock gathering lit up the switchboard at Camp Willoway. “We were supposed to be there three days, but I think we were there for just 24 hours,” she says. My husband and I (it was a summer camp romance that lasted) hated to leave.”

Noppe says her campers had absolutely no problems with the hundreds of thousands of “freaks” at the music fest. “It was amazing that under those bizarre circumstance everyone was peaceful and friendly and helping each other out.”

But Noppe and her husband aren’t interested in reliving that time.

“It was 25 years ago and a time with a very easy spirit. Who wants to see a bunch of middle age people reclaiming the past? Some memories are better left as memories.”

Then there are those looking to create their own memories.

Scott Johnson and his three roommates barreled through the night Thursday in a Pontiac Grand Am, hoping to capture some of that historical aura. They intended to travel in a Volkswagen minibus, “but the bus just wouldn’t make it.”

The foursome hopes to arrive this afternoon in time to set up their tent before some of the big names take to the stage. “I guess I don’t know what to expect. We have been preparing ourselves,” said Johnson, a counselor at an Appleton area group home. “A couple of us have bleached our hair and the other guys are going to braid their hair and put beads in it.” The four are fired up about the musical offerings, from Crosby, Stills & Nash to Green Day, from Aerosmith to Wisconsin’s own Violent Femmes.

“I’ve heard a lot about the aura and I’m kind of looking to see if that will carry on,” says Johnson. “It will be hard to catch the same spirit. But as far as like the people are concerned, I’m hoping everyone will get along.”