MONTICELLO — It may be just a large, brown sign on the side of a highway, but symbolically, it's much more than that.

After 50 years, Sullivan County has finally fully embraced its history as the home of the 1969 Woodstock Music & Art Fair and is capitalizing on it.

On Thursday, politicians and county stakeholders unveiled a new sign on the side of Route 17B, renaming it "The Woodstock Way."

When more than 400,000 people flocked to Max Yasgur’s dairy farm in the Town of Bethel for the festival, Route 17B turned into a parking lot.

The sign is one of two on the roadway. The other one is in Fosterdale and faces traffic heading in the opposite direction.

“I think it’s important that we think a minute at how utterly inconceivable it would’ve been not that many years ago to think about this many people gathering, including county officials, to honor and celebrate the notion of Woodstock because for so many years, while the rest of the world was celebrating that legacy and in some cases profiting from it, here in Sullivan County we did the best we could to hide from it,” said Sullivan County Historian John Conway.

But the tide began to change when Alan Gerry founded the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts at the original festival site.

Roberta Byron-Lockwood, president and CEO of the Sullivan Catskills Visitors Association, called Bethel Woods a "catalyst" behind the current organized effort between communities and government to celebrate the golden anniversary of a music festival that shaped a generation.

"Everybody has been taking advantage of it except us and this is the original site and this can benefit Sullivan County,” said Sullivan County Legislature Chairman Luis Alvarez.

Through this spirit encompassing the county, the visitors association collaborated with communities and businesses to place 50 decorated doves around the county as part of its "Dove Trail."

“The Woodstock festival was an extraordinary, historic and iconic event," said Legislator Scott Samuelson. "It’s something that can never be replicated, but by God we need to remember it. We need to remember everything it did for us."

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther also announced a resolution that will add $750,000 to help promote the anniversary and make this summer a success.

Bethel Supervisor Daniel Sturm said the county is ready to welcome tourists for the anniversary and spread the themes of the original festival of peace, love and good vibes.

“We are going to party like it is 1969 — in an organized way," Sturm said.

Bethel Woods Center for the Arts will celebrate the anniversary with concerts on Aug. 16-18, featuring Ringo Starr, Santana and John Fogerty.

mnanci@th-record.com