Cou­ples re­new vows in adieu to cen­ter

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Lisa Maria Garza

Win­ter Park res­i­dent Dawn Peter­son re­mem­bers mar­veling at the black and white bal­loon de­sign re­sem­bling piano keys on a wall of the Rachel D. Mur­rah Civic Cen­ter as she walked into her wed­ding re­cep­tion 23 years ago with her hus­band, Jeff.

The May 1995 event was a mu­si­cally themed wed­ding — her dad and grand­fa­ther cre­ated mu­sic notes for cen­ter­pieces on the ta­bles and their cake was a baby grand piano set on a stage.

“Let the mu­sic of this day, join our hearts as one,” she said, recit­ing the phrase writ­ten in cur­sive on a wall dec­o­rated with heartshaped bal­loons.

The Peter­sons will join about 30 other cou­ples who signed up to re­new their wed­ding vows to­day in a pub­lic cer­e­mony to mark the clos­ing of the civic cen­ter, at Morse Boule­vard and Harper Street, which is sched­uled to be de­mol­ished in the fall.

In its place will be a state-ofthe-art, $30 mil­lion-plus Win­ter Park Pub­lic Li­brary and events cen­ter in 2020. The mas­sive cam-

pus, re­cently named “Canopy,” will be built on the site of the civic cen­ter near Martin Luther King Jr. Park.

The city has tapped renowned ar­chi­tect David Ad­jaye, whose port­fo­lio spans sev­eral no­table works on mul­ti­ple con­ti­nents, to de­sign the blue­print.

The new events cen­ter, at 13,456 square feet, will dwarf the cur­rent 5,800square-foot venue, which sits by Lake Mend­sen, seats up to 200 peo­ple and fea­tures a ball­room with a teak cathe­dral ceil­ing.

The cen­ter has hosted hun­dreds of events dur­ing the last 32 years, in­clud­ing char­ity fundraisers, po­lit­i­cal watch par­ties, quinceañeras, bar/bat mitz­vahs and of course, wed­dings.

When the Peter­sons tied the knot, smart­phones with dig­i­tal cam­eras didn’t ex­ist. There were no wed­ding hash­tags to post with pic­tures on so­cial me­dia. In­stead, the Peter­sons asked their guests to doc­u­ment spe­cial mo­ments with the dis­pos­able cam­eras set on every ta­ble.

“Ours was what I would con­sider a tra­di­tional re­cep­tion,” said Dawn Peter­son, now 45. “It was all about that mo­ment, in that re­cep­tion hall.”

Life­long Win­ter Park res­i­dents Court­ney Pop­pell and her hus­band An­drew, both 32, also will re­new their vows. They met in the fourth grade, started dat­ing in high school and mar­ried in De­cem­ber 2007.

For Court­ney Pop­pell, the gath­er­ing of loved ones who knew the child­hood sweet­hearts all their lives was “joy­ful,” she said.

Every year on their an­niver­sary, the cou­ple watches their wed­ding day DVD and gig­gle at the sim­plic­ity of the af­fair.

“We got mar­ried be­fore the whole Pin­ter­est age,” she said with a laugh. “Now, every­body has magazine and tele­vi­sion qual­ity stuff and we didn’t, but in some ways, that’s a part of trea­sur­ing those mem­o­ries.

Pop­pell said she was al­ready con­sid­er­ing re­new­ing her vows to­day be­fore she dis­cov­ered her dad, Win­ter Park City Man­ager Randy Knight, will be of­fi­ci­at­ing the cer­e­mony.

“I was like, ‘Oh, I have to do this!’ ” she said.

The farewell event is from 10 a.m. to noon and also will fea­ture mu­sic, chil­dren’s ac­tiv­i­ties and “sweet bites and sparkly sips from the civic cen­ter’s de­voted caterers,” city of­fi­cials said.

A wed­ding wish­ing well is avail­able for mone­tary gifts that will go to­ward the new li­brary and events cen­ter. Cou­ples are wel­come to at­tend the cer­e­mony at the last minute, but city of­fi­cials warned they may run out of com­pli­men­tary bou­quets and bou­ton­nieres.

De­spite the ex­cite­ment of what’s to come in Win­ter Park, Peter­son said it’s bit­ter­sweet that the civic cen­ter will be gone soon.

To­day, she and Jeff, now 48, will pledge their love again while their daugh­ter Abi­gail, 9, cap­tures the mo­ment on video.

“I thought that would be a per­fect way to re­mem­ber our time there,” Peter­son said. “We’re still here, we still love each other and this has been an awe­some jour­ney.”


Dawn and Jeff Peter­son, left, toast their May 1995 wed­ding at the Rachel D. Mur­rah Civic Cen­ter in Win­ter Park. Above, An­drew and Court­ney Pop­pell exit the cen­ter af­ter their De­cem­ber 2007 re­cep­tion.

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