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Central Park’s Biggest Rock Concerts

Summer’s here, and as you’ll see in the above list of Central Park’s Biggest Rock Concerts, the time is right for squeezing together with thousands of sweaty fans to listen to music. It’s been a tradition now at New York City’s signature public space for some 50 years.

Rheingold Beer first brought rock to the park in 1966 with music festivals at Wollman Rink; tickets only cost a buck or two. The skating rink held about 15,000 people, but concerts could be heard from the surrounding hills and paths. In 1968, Schaefer Beer took over sponsorship, then was replaced in 1976 by Dr. Pepper, which moved the festival from the park so the rink could be renovated.

Concerts were also staged at the Sheep Meadow, a large grassy expanse on the west side of the park. The last show there was held in 1979. The Great Lawn has played host to a number of huge performances, notably the No Nukes concert in 1982. Since 1986, SummerStage has provided an additional place to enjoy music, first at the Naumberg Bandshell and since 1990 at Rumsey Playfield.

But which one was biggest? According to official figures, some concerts at Central Park have drawn hundreds of thousands of fans. However, a New York Times article has since cast doubt about how attendance was determined. For instance, parks workers used clickers to count fans entering the Great Lawn for a Bon Jovi‘s concert in 2008. The official tally of the packed field, where Paul Simon allegedly drew 600,000 in 1991, was about 48,500 people.

Click through to find out more in our gallery of Central Park’s Biggest Rock Concerts, but keep in mind we’ve included the official attendance of earlier concerts – so take the stats with a mountain of salt.

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