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Wigstock was an annual outdoor drag festival that began in the 1980s in Manhattan's East Village that took place on Labor Day. Traditionally the festival would act as the unofficial end to the summer for the gay community of New York City. The name references the 1969 Woodstock Festival.
Hosted by co-creator Lady Bunny, the festival was held in its first years in Tompkins Square Park. According to Lady Bunny, the event began spontaneously in 1984 after a group of drag queens (along with Wendy Wild and a couple of Fleshtones) became inebriated at the nearby Pyramid Club and decided to put on a show in the park.
As the crowds grew each year, the festival was moved, first to Union Square Park, then to piers on the Hudson River. Lady Bunny said that 2001's Wigstock would be the last, but in 2003, 2004, and 2005, Wigstock and Bunny returned to Tompkins Square, this time under the auspices of the Howl Festival.
In 1987, video artist Tom Rubnitz filmed a twenty-minute documentary entitled Wigstock: The Movie. Rubnitz's film captures the event's early improvised, rock and roll atmosphere; early years of Wigstock often made direct reference to Woodstock (including performance artist John Kelly's send-up of Joni Mitchell and her song "Woodstock"), and Rubnitz's film mimics aspects of the famous Woodstock documentary.
In 1995, a second documentary, also called Wigstock: The Movie, was released. The festivals captured in the 1994 Wigstock documentary are larger and more polished, with rock music largely supplanted by house music and the influence of the original Woodstock festival is less evident.
The 1995 film gained greater attention and was distributed across the country and on video and DVD.