Proposal comes with a visit to Santa Claus
For two out-of-town families, it was even a little more magical than usual this year.
Bethany Vawter and Anthony Sweatt of Fort Mill, S.C., were among the thousands of visitors to Blowing Rock Memorial Park the weekend after Thanksgiving for the town’s Christmas in the Park celebration and annual Christmas parade.
On Friday afternoon, Nov. 30, they waited patiently in line to see Santa Claus with Sweatt’s baby cousin.
“Anthony’s family has gone to Blowing Rock every year, the weekend after Thanksgiving, for a very long time,” Vawter said. “Anthony and I started dating when I was 15 and he was 16, we went to different high schools, but we played co-ed soccer together.”
“My first time going with them was in 2007. We have gone every year together, except for 2011 because of a family illness. So, this was my fifth time going,” she said. “We normally rent a cabin right behind downtown, but we have stayed other places near downtown Blowing Rock.
“We usually drive up on Black Friday, go shopping in the outlets and go to Makoto’s Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar. Saturday, we always go to the parade and we snowboard, go ice skating, or do something active. Then we see a movie. Sunday, we go to the Mast General Store and go to a Christmas tree farm. This year we came up on Thursday and this was the first time we got to see Santa on Friday.”
Unbeknownst to Vawter, as she and Sweatt waited in line, members of her family were driving up to Blowing Rock, as well.
Everybody in both families, except Vawter, knew that Sweatt was planning to ask for her hand in marriage in Blowing Rock.
“Anthony’s aunt, uncles and cousin drove up that Friday morning,” Vawter said. “We stood in line starting at around 2 p.m. During this time, my family was driving up to the mountains, but I had no idea. When we got closer to meeting Santa and my family still had not arrived, they told me one of the uncles went to get hot chocolate, so we had to let people pass us to wait on him.”
“When my family arrived, I guess they called him and told him to come back to the line. I was told after the proposal that my family was at the back at the line, but I never saw them. Anthony’s father whistled for them when we went up, but I barely remember him doing that,” she said.
“I took pictures of everyone with Santa until it was our turn. I gave the camera to Anthony’s brother and I sat on Santa’s lap. We took a picture and then Anthony turned to me, got down on one knee, and proposed. I said ‘yes,’ of course,” she said.
“I did not see my family until after I had hugged and kissed Anthony and we had stood up. Of course, this made me cry even more. It was magical. It was my family’s first time up in the mountains with us. They only stayed until that night, but it was fantastic,” she said.
Despite everyone in the families being in on the secret, the proposal caught Vawter completely off guard.
“I was very surprised,” she said. “I had no idea. We have been dating for six years, so, of course, we have talked about marriage and whatnot, but we were waiting until I finished college. He had me convinced he would be proposing in May, near my graduation date. I also was super surprised to see my family.”
The couple has been engaged for less than a month, but the bride-to-be has already begun the process of planning the perfect wedding.
“We have picked our bridal party and we are a signature away from confirming a church in Fort Mill for Oct. 26, 2013,” Vawter said.
“The church is Anthony’s grandmother’s church, honoring her life. The date is because our dating anniversary is on Oct. 25, so we will have been together seven years and day. The 26th will be a new beginning, and Anthony jokes that it will make it easy for him to remember. It is also in honor of my grandmother, whose birthday was the 27th,” she said.
“I am dress shopping this coming Saturday, Dec. 22. My parents made me promise I would not do too much planning until after finals ended, so I will be doing a lot over Christmas break,” she said.
Although the couple may not be coming to Blowing Rock for their honeymoon, they plan to make many more trips to celebrate the town’s Christmas in the Park.
“Going to Blowing Rock the weekend after Thanksgiving is a tradition Anthony and I intend to keep,” she said. “We want to go next year as a married couple with our families, and we want to take our children there, when we get to that step in life. Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday because of that annual trip to the mountains. There is nothing like traditions and staying in a cabin with the ones we love. We look forward to this trip all year.
“Anthony couldn’t have picked a better place to propose because of all the memories and how much Blowing Rock means to us. If families are looking for a tradition, they should pick visiting Blowing Rock.”