Brent Warner proposed to Carrie Surgenor during halftime of an Arby’s Classic high school basketball tournament game on Dec. 30 at Viking Hall in Bristol, Tenn. Photo contributed by Brent Warner.
KINGSPORT - Carrie Surgenor moved all the way to New York City looking for "Mr. Right" only to find out that he was at home in Kingsport the whole time.
And when her fiance Brent Warner proposed to her in front of about 3,000 fans during halftime of an Arby's Classic high school basketball tournament game on Dec. 30, that sealed the deal for Brent and Carrie to become Bridal Guide magazine's "Bride of the Year 2007: America's Favorite Couple."
The honor nets the couple an all expenses paid "Dream" wedding at Tavern on the Green in New York City's Central Park, a honeymoon to Jamaica and a prize package worth $92,000.
Brent, 33, and Carrie, 30, were chosen from thousands of contestants to be the top-three finalists in the contest.
More than a half million people went online to vote for one of the three finalist couples, and when the votes were tallied Carrie and Brent were the winners.
They plan on being married on July 6 at Tavern on the Green, and the entire event, including four photo shoots and five pictorial spreads, will be featured nationally in Bridal Guide.
Carrie was told about the contest by a friend who saw it advertised in the Times-News in early February, but she wasn't sure if she wanted to enter. Brent made her mind up for her when he started writing the entry essay the next day during a break from his job as a funeral director at Carter-Trent Funeral Home.
Three questions were to be answered in the essay - how they met, how he proposed and why they should be America's Favorite Couple.
"I guess I did kind of a unique proposal in the championship game of the Arby's classic," said Warner who is also a high school basketball referee. "She came down to the scorer's table to help out with the half time entertainment. I had walked off the court. I put my coat over my referee uniform and snuck back in, took her out to half court and proposed.
"I'd actually been planning this since October, and that was the part of the story I told."
Carrie is a teacher in the Bristol, Tenn., school system, and on a snow day when the students were out she wrote her portion of the essay, and they sent it in.
Carrie told about how she'd moved to New York City after college to work as an airline stewardess, but never had managed to meet Mr. Right in the big city. She was back at home for a while when she was introduced to Brent by her cousin Angela a week before she was to move back to New York City.
"We met within a week of when I was going to move back, and I was in New York for six weeks after that," Carrie said. "We just started talking over the phone, and I thought I'd come back and give him a chance."
Carrie handled the final question for the essay.
"I said they should pick us because we're very caring and sensitive people, and we always put others first," she said. "And our lives both are very busy in different ways, but always find time to see each other and share our lives every day."
Carrie said she never expected to hear back from Bridal Guide, but they were selected as a top-five finalist and were interviewed over the phone. After the interview they made the cut to the final three who the public was asked to vote for online.
They went up against a couple from New York and another couple that included a former professional basketball player whose fiance won $275,000 on the TV game show "Deal or No Deal."
Brent and Carrie got the call March 7 that they'd won.
"We are just really thankful to all the people who voted for us," Carrie said. "We didn't think we'd win because the basketball star and the name recognition - we figured they would win. I guess a lot of people heard about it when it was on TV and radio and in the newspaper and went online to vote.
"I know the students in the Bristol schools were really behind us."
Apparently Warner is a well liked basketball referee because several of the area basketball teams got their schools into the online voting effort as well.
"You could vote as often as you wanted, and I think some of them were in the classroom - click, click, click," Warner said.
The $92,000 prize package pays for all the wedding necessities at Tavern on the Green including flowers, tuxedos, dresses, the reception, rings, and wedding day food and drink for 90 guests. They also get gift certificates for expensive linen, china, furniture, cutlery and other items.
The action begins April 12 when they fly up to New York City for a photo shoot and a press conference.
They go back June 22 for a photo shoot when they shop for their gifts. The big day is July 6, and then the Jamaica honeymoon in October will also involve a photo shoot.
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