A dazzling, romantic proposal

NEIGHBORS

December 31, 2003|By Dana Klosner-Wehner | Dana Klosner-Wehner,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

VISITORS MAY be dazzled by the animated light displays at Symphony of Lights in the woods surrounding Merriweather Post Pavilion. But a tour through the displays Dec. 18 was truly magical for Stacey Palmer and Reno Lynch of Parkville.

After seeing Santa on his sleigh and reindeer frolicking in the grass, a sign caught Stacey Palmer's eye. It read: "Stacey, will you marry me?"

Lynch, an Air Force staff sergeant, planned the proposal in Korea, where he is stationed for a year. "We went to the Symphony of Lights on our first date, six years ago," he said. "I knew that was where I wanted to propose."

From Korea, he called Howard County General Hospital, which sponsors Symphony of Lights.

"When we got the call, we were thrilled to help out," said Rachel Miller, associate director of annual giving for the Howard Hospital Foundation. Symphony of Lights is a fund-raiser for the hospital.

"We wanted to make it really special. ... We had the sign made for them. We hung it in a Victorian gazebo display. We had floodlights under it. We hid in the bushes with champagne," Miller said. "It was so romantic. She kept saying she couldn't see her ring as she wiped the tears from her eyes."

Palmer said that having her boyfriend home for Christmas was the best present she could have received. Lynch had been gone for three months, and Palmer did not expect to see him until January. This is his third tour of duty in Korea.

"On Wednesday night [Dec. 17], I was at my mom's house baking a cake," Palmer said. "I heard someone behind me; I thought it was my brother. I turned around and it was Reno! I couldn't believe it. My brother was out picking him up at the airport. That would have been enough right there. But then Reno told me to get dressed up for a date the next night, the anniversary of our first date.

"A stretch limousine came to the door the next night and took us to the Symphony of Lights," she continued. "We were about three-quarters of the way through the displays when Reno got out of the car. I said, `What are you doing? You're not supposed to get out.' He told me to get out, too."

Then Palmer saw the sign.

"I said `Yes' right away, but he said, `Don't say anything yet.' Then he got down on one knee. He said something about being together six years and being happy, but I was shaking too much to hear it all," she said.

That was when Miller and site manager Brad Canfield jumped out of the bushes with champagne. And FOX 45-TV was there to capture it all on tape.

"We've been to the Symphony of Lights every year since we met, except one when Reno was in Korea. Now we can look forward to taking our kids to see it," Palmer said.

Lynch will return to Korea on Saturday for another nine months. The couple plan to marry when he returns home.

A lucky visitor

Surprises are also in store for another lucky visitor to Symphony of Lights this season, which marks the event's 10th anniversary.

During the past nine years, nearly one million visitors have driven through the display, which has raised more than $750,000 for the hospital's labor and delivery, neonatal intensive care and pediatric units.

This year, the one-millionth visitor and a guest to Symphony of Lights will win a helicopter flight above Symphony Woods. Then the winner and his or her guest will be taken on a chauffeured limousine ride, courtesy of All Stretched Out Limousine Service, to dine at The Kings Contrivance Restaurant. After dinner, they will stay overnight at The Inn at Peralynna Manor on Route 108 in Columbia.

Prizes will include a complimentary season pass to next year's Symphony of Lights.

Organizers predict the lucky visitor will drive through the gates between tonight and Friday. Symphony of Lights is open from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. daily through Sunday. Admission is $12 a car.

Information: 410-740-7666.

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