Looking for a summer evening diversion? At the Festival of Arts, you can catch the Pageant of the Masters, stroll the artists’ booths, sip wine, take in the handiwork of local creatives or maybe witness a couple or two popping the big question.
The Festival of Arts served as the proposal spot of choice for three different couples, two of whom relied on artists to help deliver their declaration on the same night.
“The Festival has been something we’ve been going to ever since we started dating. That was one of the first events where we started realizing this might be a really, really serious relationship. It has a special place in our hearts,” explained Andrew Shen, of Roland Heights, who proposed to his girlfriend of four years, Crystal Paul, in front of painter Elizabeth McGhee’s booth.
Earlier, Shen commissioned McGhee to paint a scene of him proposing to Paul, of Buena Park, in front of her booth. The task was not easy as the artist only had a profile of Paul’s likeness to work from and her subject’s attire required a quick makeover to match the real life wardrobe choice, which changed at the last minute.
“Andrew sent me this panicked email saying Crystal had changed her dress,” McGhee said.
Shen’s job was no easy task either. Word of his plan leaked to family, friends, and some Pageant attendees, who were waiting as he approached the painter’s booth with his unsuspecting soon-to-be fiancé. Despite an audience, he got down on one knee, popped the question, and closed the deal.
Patrick Moss, of Huntington Beach, endured more tribulations than a jinxed wedding planner before proposing to his girlfriend of four years, Sophia Phan, the same night. During the outdoor Pageant, Moss offered to cover Phan’s chilled legs with his jacket, making sure to keep the ring-bearing pocket closest to him. When they returned from intermission, Phan switched seats, putting the ring on the wrong side. When Moss reached to switch it, he found the ring was gone.
“I was panicked. True panic set in for a second,” he said.
As he fidgeted with the jacket, Phan, of San Diego, queried what he was up to. For the second time in minutes, Moss thought his plan doomed. He made an excuse about hunting for a cell phone, found the ring and kept her in the dark a few minutes longer.
After the show, friends met him in the restroom and planted a microphone so the proposal would be recorded. Moss then guided his date to the booth of photographer Barbara White, who previously shot a photo of Moss at the beach on bended knee, framed with other shots of the couple. People gathered near but gave the couple privacy. She said yes.
The newly betrothed couple left via Forest Avenue, where a band at the Lumberyard restaurant was playing their song. Amazed, Phan wanted to enter. Inside, were both of their families. Moss, a prosecutor, had it planned all along.
The profusion of proposals started with Mike Kortge. Last month, he spontaneously proposed to Nan Fisher, who works as the Festival’s donor coordinator. Both in their 60s, the two were out of touch for decades after being friends throughout grade school. They reunited last January on classmates.com, whence their relationship turned to romance.
“It doesn’t seem that soon to us because we kind of picked up where our friendship left off. We think it was meant to be. I’m very excited,” said Fisher.
The pair was walking the festival grounds, admiring art and had stopped by jeweler Lance Heck’s booth a few times.
Distracted by a friend, Fisher returned to observe a sales woman handing Kortege a ring. “I came around the corner and he was just grinning. He just dropped down on his knee and asked me to marry him. I, of course, said yes. My goodness. There was nobody around and all of a sudden there was a crowd of about 35 or 40 people clapping.
“Someone asked where we met. Mike said kindergarten. This guy said, ‘What in the world took you so long?’”