SAUGERTIES, N.Y. — After a final long day of music, Woodstock '94 sent its weary, mud-caked children homeward late Sunday on a fitful exodus bogged down by foul weather, lakes of mud and a massive crush of humanity.
Even before the three-day festival's final day of music started, thousands of concert-goers began straggling out in long lines from the site, where Woodstock producers estimated that more than 350,000 fans had gathered before their ranks began to shrink early Sunday under driving rain.
New York State Police, however, said the crowd never exceeded 300,000, and concert producers said their ticket sales fell nearly 50,000 short of the 250,000 they had hoped to sell.
Like its 1969 parent, Woodstock '94 ended with the sort of logistics woes that have vexed almost every major rock festival since that earlier time. The sheer number of fans, the taxing weather and lapses by concert management created scenes of slow-motion anarchy, where each hour brought more confusion and breakdowns.
Persistent storms dropped rain all night Saturday and during the day Sunday, driving the weather-weary toward an early exit, moving in long lines along hillside roads and clustering in vast parking lots. They passed smaller knots of rock devotees traveling in the opposite direction, lured to the site by the sudden withdrawal of hundreds of security guards from the festival's gates and checkpoints.
Despite promoters' denials, Woodstock's final day was essentially a free concert. As those leaving streamed out of the 840-acre site, lugging mud-caked tents and backpacks, hard-core fans stayed in the fields around the two main stages, listening to rock artists like Bob Dylan and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. However, unlike the crush on Saturday, spaces could be found.
"Everything I own is wet," said Neil Alexander, 23, of Landover, Md. "And you know what, I don't care. This is what Woodstock is supposed to be. It's too much."
"My mom went to the first one. I'll tell my kids to go to the reunion," said Blake Phillips, 19, of New Haven, Conn. " . . . She said be prepared because it's going to be messy."
Those who stayed made their peace with the mud. Some played touch football in the slicks, some dived in and slid like frisky seals, some even packed the light brown goo into jars to cart home as mementos.
Others had their fill. "I can't take any more of this," said Angie Lane, 22, of Easley, S.C., as she and her boyfriend teetered in the mud, packing up a small tent and mounds of spattered clothes. "I just want to be in my living room right now, watching this on TV."
State Police officials began blocking local roads and thruway exits in the hilly Saugerties area early Sunday, preparing for the drawn-out exodus, which they predicted could take up to a day.
"The system really started to break down because of the rain," said John Scher, president of PolyGram Diversified Ventures, which put up $30 million in front money for the concert.
"I can't deny we did not have the requisite number of people needed to really control this event," said Robert C. G. Disney, the festival's director of security and safety. ". . . I wanted to be proactive, but as a result of the number of people who showed up, we had to end up being reactive." Other concert officials said that in retrospect, they also would have added extra security.
In some respects, Woodstock '94 was very lucky. Concert organizers spent harrowing moments Saturday darting in and out of their weather trailer as a storm packing lightning and 65 m.p.h. winds bore down on the site.
Just when they feared the worst, the storm veered off--but its fringes were strong enough to cause major headaches.
"We got very lucky," said John Roberts, one of Woodstock's principal producers. "But the the mud has made it tough for the kids to get home."
Although there were two deaths--one attributed to complications of diabetes and another caused by a ruptured spleen--most injuries and ailments were minor, health authorities and concert medics said. Nevertheless, medical problems sent more than 1,600 patients to the festival's hospital and at least another 3,000 to 13 satellite clinics.
The cases came in at a staggering rate. During peak hours, "we're seeing one patient every 20 seconds," said Dr. Ferdinand Anderson, the concert's medical director.
Four of the site's first aid clinics were temporarily closed because of the crush. Action was most fierce at a post near the main stage's "mosh pit," where dancers massed together, slamming into each other and hoisting others up over their shoulders for dangerous spates of "body surfing."
Knocked to the ground by several of the dancers, Kristalynn Landolfi, 23, an aspiring actress from Red Bank, N.J., awoke as medics swabbed her bloody face. Several minutes later, they told her that her nose was broken in two places.
Landolfi was determined to stay. "I paid $400 for this ticket. I came for a peaceful vibe and I'm going to get it," she said through gritted teeth.