GREENFIELD — When Kayla Riggs’ boyfriend told her he wasn’t feeling well the morning of their five-year anniversary, her heart sank. She’d been waiting all week to celebrate the way they always do: at the Riley Festival, visiting their favorite craft booths, snacking and catching up with friends.
But Nathan Turner, 21, had a bigger plan. He knew Saturday would be the day he proposed to the woman he’s been dating since he was 16. That afternoon, he asked Riggs, 22, to marry him. They were in front of the county courthouse, at the center of the Riley Festival, where they had their first date. As surprised onlookers cheered them on, Riggs made the day perfect by saying yes.
It was a moment that took some planning. To make it truly special, Riggs couldn’t suspect or know a thing about what Turner had planned, so, he told a white lie. He sent a text that morning saying he wasn’t feeling well and would spend the morning relaxing in hopes he’d feel well enough to make the trip from his home in Franklin to Greenfield later in the day.
It wasn’t a total lie; he wasn’t sick, but he was a ball of nerves, he said. He chose the ring, a halo style gold ring decorated with diamonds, in May and picked it up last week. He already had asked Riggs’ father, Joe, for permission and recruited friends and family to help with the proposal.
He laid out a plan, but it wasn’t foolproof; he just hoped his girlfriend wouldn’t see him until it was time.
Riggs, a Greenfield-Central High School graduate, was disappointed Saturday morning and hoped they’d still be able to see each other once he was feeling better. She headed out to the annual festival, which she’s attended since she was a child, and spent the morning helping family and friends at their booths.
Around 12:30 p.m., a friend asked Riggs to take a walk with him. He brought her to the north side of the courthouse, where she saw Turner standing with flowers in his hand near the James Whitcomb Riley statue.
Turner said he had been waiting for what seemed like an eternity. He felt like he couldn’t move because his knees were so weak. As she walked up, he got down on one knee, asking her to spend the rest of her life beside him.
By that time, passers-by had stopped to watch what was unfolding, but Riggs saw only the man in front of her. She was completely surprised.
“The first thing I said to him was, ‘You’re not supposed to be here,’” she said.
“The only thing she could say was, ‘Oh, my goodness,’” Turner recalled.
The couple met five years earlier at vacation Bible school. A few months later, they decided to go on a date. Turner had never been to Riley Festival, and Riggs, having grown up in Greenfield, loved it, so it seemed like the perfect first date.
It was miserably hot that day, but they made the most of it. He bought her a pair of sunglasses after she left hers in the car, and they shared apple cobbler with ice cream.
The then-16-year-old Turner was terrified. He liked Riggs and wanted to impress her. Riggs was equally nervous. Turner was cute, friendly and funny, Riggs said, but the man she would marry? She was 17, too young for those kinds of thoughts.
They spent about three hours at the festival that day. Afterward, that one date became two, then three, then too many to count.
In May, when a friend who was planning to propose to his girlfriend invited Turner to look at rings with him, Turner decided it might be time to make a purchase of his own.
In the months since, Riggs had no idea what her boyfriend was planning. She had one rule when it came to getting engaged: She wanted to be surprised.
Family, friends and strangers knew what Turner was planning, but he kept it secret from Riggs. And when it all came off without a hitch Saturday, she was thrilled.
“It was perfect,” she said. “He did such a good job.”
Though the couple have been engaged only a few days, a wedding date is already on the calendar: Oct. 1, 2016.
“We’re sticking with October,” Riggs said. “We love the fall.”