We’ve come to expect the unexpected at Children’s Fairyland. Still, a whole new standard was set last week on the night of our annual fundraising extravaganza.

We expected more than 400 people at our “Cinderella Story” gala event. We hadn’t expected that, after 40 years, the Golden State Warriors would actually make it to the NBA finals, with the first game of the series scheduled for Thursday night — our night! — at the same hour our event was starting.

One more thing we hadn’t planned on: a last-minute request for a very special proposal to occur in the midst of our event.

Team Fairyland took it all in stride. In fact, all the surprises just added to the magic of the night.

With Warriors fever rampant in this town, I could hardly be mad at the wonderful board member who had season tickets for that night. I let him off the hook and wished him a good time at the finals.

Then, 15 minutes before our event was to begin, I received a text on my personal phone: “I’m sorry — I feel I need to be at game tonight. Have a great event!” I texted back: “No worries — go Warriors! But who is this? ” The response: “Libby Schaaf.” Ha! I replied that that was the only excuse we’d accept from our mayor, who is, after all, a proud graduate of Fairyland’s Children’s Theatre program. (She played Raggedy Ann … and Cinderella!) Before she took off for the game, however, she did provide us with a lovely mayoral proclamation to commemorate the event.

But those cancellations turned out to be minor speed bumps compared to the big ask: the proposal.

Mere days before the gala, Randy Walker had called to see whether we would allow him to propose that night to his lady love — in costume, in front of our Pinocchio’s castle, with a photographer documenting the whole thing.

Randy had known Teresa Rogers for 29 years (they’d been in church together, and on various mission trips to Mexico); they became engaged in January and he was ready to pop the big question. Randy works in a children’s ministry in his church, where kids and teachers sometimes dress up in costume, and Teresa’s always been game. They call each other Prince and Princess, and they went to see the new Cinderella film together.

When they heard about our gala, they knew it would be right up their alley. In fact, Teresa had an inkling that this might be the night Randy proposed. But when he spoke of taking his time, she put the thought out of her mind. Meanwhile, Randy was secretly trying to find out her ring size from a girlfriend and planning for a photographer to meet him at the event — all without arousing suspicion. 

Now, we’re all romantics here at Fairyland, but because the gala is such a major event, with thousands of moving parts, we asked that Randy wait until our program on stage was over and we opened the entire park to guests. He was to meet the photographer at the red curtains and head toward the castle. That’s when the photographer went missing, and Randy had a wardrobe malfunction. His belt — on which he carried a pouch with the engagement ring — snapped. He stalled as long as he could, then headed to the castle, hoping that the photographer would catch up.

“Boy, was I nervous,” Randy later recalled. He said that although he’s given sermons to hundreds of people at a time, this was not the same. He sang her a song, which he says he garbled under the pressure.

Teresa remembered it differently. “He never missed a beat — he completely and totally caught me off guard.”

Thankfully, Randy spotted the photographer midway through his proposal. He dropped to one knee and publicly proclaimed his love. He later admitted that he wasn’t sure she was going to say yes. And believe me, my staff was concerned about this, too. What if a fairytale proposal was turned down at Fairyland?

There was, indeed, a long pause. But then Teresa said yes. “Of course I did!” she told us. “It was a lovely surprise, and what girl wouldn’t be swept off her feet?”

Randy said Teresa might have suspected something “when I passed by all of the great food tables.”

They stayed to enjoy the event, although Teresa says it felt surreal. When a huge cheer went up from the crowds of people huddled over their devices during the Warriors’ overtime play, the couple imagined that the public display was for them.

Children’s Fairyland’s Gala was a huge success. So was the Warriors’ performance at Game One of the finals. And so was a proposal from Prince Charming to his Cinderella.

All in a night’s work at a magical place where the fairies are in control.

Editor’s Note: This piece reflects an individual opinion and is not a reported story from Oakland Local. Oakland Local invites community residents to share their views about events and issues in Oakland. For guidelines, see: http://oaklandlocal.com/guidelines.

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