Friday, November 6, 2009

Flashback Friday: An unforgettable convention

Here in Nashville, Tennessee attending my seventh consecutive year at the Curves International Convention, I thought it would be appropriate to chronicle the story of one that will always be particularly special to me.

For the last two years our convention was held in Orlando, Florida but prior to that we felt quite at home at the Bally's/Paris Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, where we attended for the first four years of my career with Curves.  At the awards banquet at my first convention in 2003, I looked on with admiration at the small handful of clubs to earn the prestigious "Franchisee of the Year" awards.  I made a silent commitment to be in a position to be selected for that award one day, and at the urging of some employees the following year, I submitted the application for consideration.  Which is how in 2004, having been a Curves owner for only two years, at age 22, presently the General Manager of our three club locations, I was selected to receive a Franchisee of the Year award. Whether the award would be Gold, Silver, or Bronze remained to be announced at the Saturday night banquet, but having been chosen at all was the most esteemed honor.

My mother and sister are co-owners in our Curves company.  The three of us attended Convention together that year, and it was a fabulous Girls' Getaway.  In addition to the exciting company announcements and inspiring messages, Curves Convention is all about the ladies taking a little break to rejuvenate.  Many Curves owners bring husbands or family along, but in spite of the fact that my husband and my dad also claim an ownership stake in our company, we've never invited them to participate in Convention (and they are probably grateful). With the exception of the year Madelyn was nursing, Convention has remained one little getaway--even if it is a business trip--that I can count on each fall.

Exactly five years ago today, my mom, sister and I were sitting in the Paris Ballroom along with about 4,000 other women (and a few hundred men), winding down from a full day of informative and motivating speakers.  Just before being released to hit the closest buffet for dinner, the Co-Founder of Curves, Diane Heavin, took the stage to make some final announcements and provide a tidbit of parting wisdom.

Diane spoke about how Curves has been helping make dreams come true for women all over the world.  Then she declared, "There is always room for one more dream, right?"

And this is when the beautiful icon of our entire organization called my name. She invited me to join her on stage. I didn't have to go far, as our Area Directors had located us prior to the session and ushered us to seats near the front of the very large event center.  Along with all of the other VIP's, of course.  As I walked up the steps into the spotlight and joined Diane, I noticed from the corner of my eye that our AD's had gently restrained my mother from following.  It was becoming clear that this was not, as we had logically assumed, related to our award nomination.

When Diane guided me to turn around and face the back of the stage, I could see the giant projector screens  now bearing my image alongside hers.  We stood at the end of a long runway projecting from the main stage, and in front of the black drapery from floor to vaulted ceiling were two 20-feet tall set pieces framing the sides of the stage. One of these large pillars began to rotate in place--much like it would in a game show, revealing on the other side the most tantalizing piece in the grand prize showcase, amidst gasps of envy and applause from the studio audience.

As a matter of fact, the 180-degree turn of this pillar did reveal a very exciting surprise: my sweetheart Gary, dressed up in a suit and tie, carrying a tiny navy blue box.  The gasps from the audience were audible indeed. What they may not have even realized is that he was supposed to be at home a thousand miles away.

Gary walked purposefully to the circular front of the runway.  He very genuinely and sweetly affirmed his love and then dropped to one knee to ask me that very special question.  Among the 4,000 cheering people, many tears were shed, as I was told repeatedly the rest of the weekend.

Now, if you know Gary, this whole story might seem very surprising. He is quite introverted, and prefers not to be the center of attention. Gary's belief that this special proposal would mean a lot to me propelled him to go outside his comfort zone. This stunt required assistance from many important people, up to and including the CEO and Founders of Curves, who undoubtedly have much more important things on their mind in preparation for this huge annual event. Secret phone calls and emails were exchanged with the powers that be, and Gary's mom had the privilege of being temporary ring-keeper.

Remember, Gary doesn't attend Convention with us. He took a flight to Las Vegas Friday morning, and then was shuffled around the bowels of Paris Casino in order to be kept out of sight until the right moment.  Gary got to see areas of a casino/resort that most of us never will. Apparently there was even a timing mix-up and while he was leisurely finishing a solitary lunch while our meetings were supposedly in session, Gary looked up to see a hoard of women in Curves T-shirts approaching.  He called in his emergency troops, who swiftly whisked him away into the hidden labyrinth inside Paris Las Vegas.

After he proposed, Gary returned to our hotel room for a few minutes, but had to catch a cab back to the airport for his flight home only an hour later. In a crazy coincidence, we girls had purchased tickets earlier in the day to attend that evening's performance of Tony n' Tina's Wedding, an interactive dinner-theatre experience that I've always loved. It was the perfect conclusion to my Engagement Day, and provided an excellent backdrop against which to show off my brand new ring and recount the exhilarating events which brought it to my finger.

Gary, Me, Diane Heavin
November 5, 2004

My sister Diana, Gary Heavin, Me, My new fiancĂ©e Gary, Diane Heavin, Mom, Area Directors Tom and Valerie

Oh yeah. We won the Silver award for our region. And guess what: we've been nominated for a Franchisee of the Year award again this year too. We'll learn which color tomorrow night!


Annie said...

I just love this story!

And I cannot wait to see what color we get!

Jennifer said...

I've heard the story, but not with so many details (or maybe I just forgot?). It's a great one--go Gary!

Bridget said...

I remember hearing this story. It's such a good one. Way to go Gary!

Amber said...

That is a great engagement story! Thanks for sharing.

wiyaka said...

That is a great story to tell the grandkids one day!! What a sweet and thoughtful man you have. I love it!


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