Brice Swanson and Kimberlee Kent of Greenville, Mich., have known each other since elementary school but reconnected on social media and through their love of NASCAR. The couple will wed Saturday at Michigan International Speedway.
BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Usually, a wedding ceremony has about 100 guests. Maybe 200, if it's cost-permissive. If it's a blowout gala, there might be upwards of 300 guests.
Kimberlee Kent is trying not to think about the fact that thousands of spectators inside of major auto-racing facility will be able to watch a life-changing moment for her.
After the final cars cross the finish line of Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series Alliance Truck Parts 250 at Michigan International Speedway, Kent will walk through a line of orange safety cones to Victory Lane, where she will be greeted by her fiance, Brice Swanson, their families, and MIS president Roger Curtis.
"I told Brice after our first date that if I ever got married, I'd want my boyfriend to propose to me on the track," Kent said. "But I've always been a small-town, simple girl. Getting married at the track, this is a little bigger for me than what I expected!"
Some may even post to their Twitter and Facebook accounts about the wedding, creating an even bigger audience. Not coincidentally, social media is what brought the wedding at the track to fruition in the first place.
Avid racing fans from Greenville, Mich. -- a town 34 miles northeast of Grand Rapids, Mich. -- Kent and Swanson have known each other since middle school but were reacquainted through Facebook. They went on their first date in 2009 -- not surprisingly, to a NASCAR weekend at MIS -- and it was the start of a long-term relationship. Over Christmas, after they bought their first home together, Kent and Swanson decided they would get married. Yet they only anticipated a small wedding.
In early April, Kent reached out to MIS president Roger Curtis via Twitter, the popular microblogging site that limits messages to 140 characters or less. She sent a tweet to Curtis, asking, "Can I get married at MIS?"
"I wrote right back to her, and said, 'absolutely!' " Curtis recalled.
In jest, Kent asked if Sprint Cup driver A.J. Allmendinger would officiate the wedding. Allmendinger, who drives for Shell-Pennzoil Dodge, is an ordained minister.
Instead, Curtis offered to become ordained for the ceremony and on Saturday, he will officiate the marriage of Kent and Swanson.
"This is something special and unique that she offered," Curtis said. "We joke about it, and we're going to have fun with it. But it's still a wedding. She's marrying someone she met through racing. She loves racing. She loves this track. We want to do this right for Kim. I want to make sure she has one heck of a memory and one heck of a wedding."
Weddings at sporting venues are common: Fifth Third Field in Toledo recently hosted a wedding, and while the Huntington Center has yet to host a wedding, Al Purdie, a marketing manager for the facility, said the arena can host weddings, contingent upon its availability on certain dates.
Several Michigan stadiums and arenas offer wedding packages, including Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor and Joe Louis Arena and Comerica Park in Detroit, Olympia Entertainment's hockey and baseball facilities.
Even MIS has hosted weddings. Duane Barnes, who works in the maintenance department at MIS, got married during a race weekend at the track. (Barnes, however, is better known as of late after an incident at the Daytona 500 in February, in which driver Juan Pablo Montoya hit the jet dryer Barnes was operating driving during a caution in the race.)
While fans have held weddings and receptions on the campground and infield -- Kent and Swanson will have their reception in the campground area, where they stay during race weekend with their families -- Curtis doesn't know of any fans who have held their wedding ceremony on the track.
"This is the first time fans have formally gotten married here, and this is the most formal event we'll have," Curtis said.
A wedding while the asphalt is still hot?
"We joked to the track staff that they won't have to pressure wash [the track]," Curtis said. "She wants it a little sticky when she walks to Victory Lane."
Kent has already picked up her dress -- minus the NASCAR signage, and Swanson will wear a Dale Earnhardt, Jr., polo shirt when he meets his bride at the altar. By his side will be T.J. Majors, Earnhardt's spotter.
Will there be a rousing cheer after the moment when Kent and Swanson say 'I do' on Victory Lane? Or will there be a steady stream of posts on social media sites to celebrate the nuptials?
Kent can't say. She's trying not to think about the fact that thousands of people will witness her wedding.
Afterward, she might just tweet about it.
"Going through all this," Kent said, "it almost feels like it's too good to be true."
Contact Rachel Lenzi at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.
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