As 20-year-old sweethearts, Nick Ercoline and Bobbi Kelly were immortalized as the poster (flower) children of Woodstock.
A photograph of the couple — wrapped in a tender embrace and a pink blanket — became the cover of 1970’s “Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack and More.”
But at the time, they had no clue that photographer Burke Uzzle had even captured the shot at the festival, which took place the weekend of Aug. 15 to 18, 1969.
“I don’t know how it happened,” Nick told The Post.
Yet the photo endured — and so did the love story. Fifty years after Woodstock, the now 70-year-old spouses are still holding on tight to one another.
“It’s a moment that happens still this day,” said Nick, a retired carpenter. “When we first see each other in the morning, that’s the first thing we do. We give each other a hug and a kiss, and we stand there for about a minute or so, hanging on to each other.”
And they repeat that romantic ritual before going to bed every night at their home of 42 years in Pine Bush, NY, about 40 miles east of the original concert site in Bethel. The pastoral setting — with peace images all around and a flag from the fabled festival, bearing its trademark dove, hanging from the front porch — is like their own private Woodstock.
Married since 1971, Nick and Bobbi never got the memo that they were going to appear on the cover of the “Woodstock” album, released as a triple vinyl LP in May 1970 to accompany a concert film of the festival.
“We discovered it was us when the album came out,” said Bobbi, a retired nurse. “That’s when I realized I needed to tell my mother that I had gone to Woodstock.”
Nick and Bobbi met in February 1969 while he was bartending at Dino’s Bar and Grill in Middletown, NY, a joint that got lyrical love in the 1976 Thin Lizzy hit “The Boys Are Back in Town.”
“My waiter is going out with this beautiful blonde, and what the waiters did is they brought their girlfriends up and placed them in front of their bartenders so they could see them all night long,” Nick recalled.
“So Bobbi stood in front of me for the rest of the night and pretty much for a lot of nights after that.”
After things fizzled with Bobbi and her boyfriend — although “we’re all still friends,” she said — she and Nick began dating in May 1969, three months before Woodstock. “He was very happy, very handsome. He was very funny,” she said. “And I felt safe with him. I felt taken care of.”
Living in Middletown — adjacent to the town of Wallkill, where the festival was originally supposed to be held — they had heard all the buzz about Woodstock: “We were very privy to every single step of the process,” Bobbi said.
While initially not planning to go, partly because of the cost — “The tickets were $ 18 for three days; minimum wage was $ 1.60 an hour,” Bobbi said — they ended up making a last-minute decision to head there very early on Saturday, the second day of the festival.
“We gathered up a couple cases of beer, a couple gallons of wine and whatever,” Nick recalled. “We were very unprepared for everything. We didn’t carry any food, we didn’t carry anything to sit on. We just went.”
Driving with friends in a white 1965 Chevrolet Impala station wagon, they eventually abandoned the car about four or five miles away from the Woodstock site and continued on foot down a small back road.
“As we were walking in, I picked up the blanket because I thought we needed something to sit on,” said Bobbi. “It was just discarded, so I scarfed it up and that’s where the pink blanket came from.”
While Bobbi recalled the “compressed humanity” filled with smells ranging from patchouli and weed to campfire smoke and body odor, Nick remembered first noticing a spin-the-wheel game.
‘We were very unprepared for everything. We didn’t carry any food, we didn’t carry anything to sit on. We just went.’
– Nick Ercoline
“They’d run out of prizes,” he said. “So now the prizes are a nickel or a dime bag of pot, maybe a small piece of hashish.”
Nick and Bobbi claimed a spot on the top of a hill, along with their late friend James “Corky” Corcoran, a Marine who had just gotten back from a tour in Vietnam. Corcoran is pictured sleeping under a blanket in Uzzle’s famous photo.
They had also befriended a guy named Herbie, who was on a bad acid trip, and took care of him until he was clear-headed enough to go find his friends. It was Herbie who ended up leaving behind the stick with the butterfly at left on the album cover.
From Nick and Bobbi’s vantage point, they could only see the top of the stage, but the sound was “amazing,” said Bobbi. “We all went for the music, I’m sure.
“But I think Woodstock ended up to really be about all the people. There was no food, the weather was awful, water was intermittent, bathroom facilities were all but nil . . . We’re sitting on our blanket, listening to the music and just watching the humanity all around us. What you had, you shared with the people next to you; what they had, they shared with us.”
It was thanks to Corcoran that Nick and Bobbi found out about their album cover close-up. “He went out the day it came out and bought it. We all got together at his place, and we’re sitting around listening to the album,” said Nick, adding that they didn’t immediately notice themselves. “That’s because when you get an album, you’re not looking at the front, you’re looking at the back to see which music’s on it, who’s on this.”
Even after they noticed the picture, life went on as normal for Nick and Bobbi. They got engaged on Christmas Eve 1970 and married on Aug. 27, 1971 — just days after the second anniversary of Woodstock — at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Bullville, NY. They went on to raise a family with two sons: Matthew, born in 1979, and Luke, arriving in 1981.
It wasn’t until the 20th anniversary of Woodstock, in 1989, that Nick and Bobbi were publicly identified as the couple in the iconic photo that they now proudly display in their kitchen.
They were ID’d after Bobbi responded to an ad that Life magazine placed in local newspapers looking for people who attended Woodstock for a 20th-anniversary issue.
And while plans for Woodstock 50 have been canceled, Nick and Bobbi will commemorate the golden anniversary of the festival at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, on the site of the original Woodstock, Aug. 15 to 18.
“We believe in the philosophy of Bethel Woods,” said Bobbi, who, along with Nick, volunteers at the museum there and gives private artist tours. “They are meticulous, conscientious stewards of those hallowed grounds . . . It’s not a parking lot; it’s not a Walmart.”
Certainly, Nick and Bobbi are planning to pass on their Woodstock love story to their four grandchildren, for whom they are saving four vinyl copies of the album.
And they want their photo to inspire a message of peace, love and hope in generations to come.
“I just hope that when folks look at that picture and they think of what a chaotic, troubled world we have right now, [they will feel] that there’s always hope,” said Bobbi. “Always. No matter how bad it seems to be, you gotta have hope.”