BETHEL, N.Y. (Reuters) – Fifty years ago, Nick and Bobbi Ercoline were just another young couple camped out at the Woodstock festival.
But when a photographer snapped their picture early on that Sunday morning as they stood hugging each other while wrapped in a blanket, they unwittingly became part of pop culture history, ending up on the Woodstock festival album cover.
Nick and Bobbi are still together and still living near the farm at Bethel Woods, in New York’s Catskills mountains, where the three-day festival was held in 1969, on Aug. 15-18.
The couple, now 70, say they don’t remember the picture being taken nor much about what was happening around them that day on a muddy hillside strewn with sleepers huddled in blankets in the morning air.
“Just getting up in the morning, standing up, giving my girlfriend a hug,” Nick Ercoline recalled. “I don’t even remember the picture being taken honestly.”
Bobbi, who was wearing large sunglasses, said she barely remembered the moment at all. But when she looks at the picture now, “I feel calmness.”
“I feel that it’s like the birds waking up in the morning, and we’re just kind of … sorting it out. We’re just waking up, looking for a nice hot cup of coffee, which there was none,” she told Reuters.
Nick and Bobbi had started dating about three months before the festival and decided to go on a whim after hearing about it on the radio while Nick was tending bar in Middletown, New York, about 35 miles (56 km) from Bethel.
“Water was intermittent, sketchy. Food was sold out Friday night. The weather was absolutely awful,” Bobbi said. “And 450,000 people gathered here and not one incident of violence. That’s pretty amazing. The world needs more Woodstock.”
It wasn’t until listening to the Woodstock triple album with friends that they realized they were the couple on the cover.
“We couldn’t believe it. We were just shaking our heads. By then we had been together for almost a year,” Nick said.
Nick and Bobbi married in August 1971 and went on to have two children. Bobbi worked as a school nurse and Nick became a union carpenter before retiring.
They are now volunteer guides at the Bethel Woods museum, part of the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts which owns the Woodstock festival site some 100 miles (160 km) from New York City.
Museum director Wade Lawrence said the photo of the couple, taken by Burk Uzzle, captured the spirit of the festival.
“It symbolizes that love and togetherness of the festival. … We’re really lucky that Nick and Bobbi are still around to share their story with us,” Lawrence said.
Reporting by Daniel Fastenberg; Editing by Jill Serjeant and Leslie Adler