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HomeNewsVancouver Island woman, 70, says it’s her in iconic Woodstock pic

Vancouver Island woman, 70, says it’s her in iconic Woodstock pic

A Comox Valley woman says she is in one of the most famous photos in pop culture history.

The picture taken by Burk Uzzle shows a man hugging a woman at the Woodstock festival in 1969. They’re wrapped in a blanket with a backdrop of young festival-goers lying on a muddy floor.

Jessie Kerr was 20 years old at the time. She is now a 70-year-old retired teacher who has lived in the valley for the past 40 years.

“I remember the photo being taken,” she said. “The kind of cameras that everybody had are called Brownies and they are like a little brown box. And this person took a photo of us and it had a lens on the front, like the kind of cameras that we see today.”

She added, “I remember him taking the picture of us. It had been pouring rain, we were soaking wet, and we picked this blanket up, it didn’t belong to us, off the ground. And we wrapped it around us. We were just standing there when he took the picture. And that was it.”

This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of a festival in Bethel, New York and featured peace and love, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Joan Baez, The Who, and Jefferson Airplane, among others.

Kerr described Woodstock as a “mud music fest.”

She says she was hugging her friend John, a Bostonian who she met in Montreal.

Kerr took a circuitous route to Woodstock. She hitchhiked from Vancouver to Montreal with her French-Canadian friend. An American serviceman were talked into giving them a ride most the way.

That’s where she met John. 

“He said, ‘You want to go to a music festival?’ I said, ‘Sure, what’s a music festival?’”

They went to Woodstock with $40 between the two of them.

“When we got there, there was no gate,” she said. “We just walked in with our $20. I think the price was 18 (dollars) but we had $20 each to get in.”

From there on, it was just music.

“I distinctly remember hearing Joan Baez, and I remember hearing Arlo Guthrie, I really remember hearing Janis Joplin, I remember hearing and seeing Jimi Hendrix,” Kerr recalled. 

“It was incredible. And there was rain, and mud and all these nice people feeding us food, we didn’t know who they were we didn’t have to pay for food. And dancing and singing along and just hanging out with thousands of people.”

Kerr said when the organizers “figured out that they weren’t going to make any money, they just made an announcement that it was free and it didn’t matter if you had a ticket or not.”

Woodstock had its problems. A heavy downpour turned the ground into a mudpit.

But Kerr said the people there were happy despite being drenched and dirty.

“It was a disaster area, it felt like a disaster area, but it was a very happy disaster area.”

Ongoing controversy

In a retrospective published in Life Magazine, an American couple claimed that they were the ones in the photo. 

Kerr is adamant that their claim is false.

“I wrote Life Magazine and I said, ‘Look: this is me, this is what I’m wearing, nobody else could have worn this because I made it and my mother helped me make it, and those are my sunglasses. They were unique.”

Today, Kerr a yoga instructor. She says she has been married for years, with three adult children and four grandchildren.

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