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The happy couple had sought quiet nuptials in Dade City, but ended up with a Kumquat Festival crowd.
By ERIN SULLIVAN, Times Staff Writer
Published January 31, 2008
Regina Polsky and Jerry Witts met seven years ago at a jewelry shop in St. Petersburg. Jerry is fond of antique watches and would bring them in to be fixed. Regina worked at the shop and, as Jerry says, as soon as she smiled at him, he knew this was it.
They started dating and then moved in together. Both are in their 50s and had been married before. But, somehow, after decades of the highs and lows of relationships, neither were burned out on the idea of finding a permanent love.
"I knew deep down in my heart that I would meet someone special," Regina said, and when met with skeptical looks that she never went through the "I'm done with relationships phase," she said it again.
"You can't give up on that. You just can't."
Regina and Jerry have that tanned, healthy look of people who have worked hard their entire lives and now can relax a bit and enjoy life. They like fine food and travel overseas often, sometimes at the spur of the moment. Regina will call her 80-year-old mother, Rose Polsky, and say, "Guess where we are? At the airport!"
They aren't ostentatious, but manicured in a low-key way - he with silver-wire rimmed glasses, a trimmed mustache and tasseled loafers; she with honey-colored hair bobbed just below her ears, her tiny frame in slacks and sandals, showing her painted toenails. They laugh easily and often. That's what drew them together. They are more similar than different. They are both outgoing and like to have fun, no matter where they are.
They had been talking about getting married and thought of Dade City 60 miles north on the far eastern side of Pasco County. They like taking day trips there to wander the cute downtown. And every year they go to the Kumquat Festival, which brings in thousands of people to honor the small sour citrus fruit that is grown in the area and shipped all over the world.
A few weeks ago, Regina called the Dade City Chamber of Commerce to ask for the number of a notary. Regina and Jerry thought it would be nice to have a quiet service in the city they love.
But the women at the chamber had other ideas.
"What would you think of getting married at the Kumquat Festival?" asked Lucy Avila, who works at the chamber.
Regina and Jerry, of course, thought it would be fun.
So the chamber women swooped into action. They called local businesses who donated their services - the trolley would drop them off, the Kumquat and Dade City queens and their courts would be bridesmaids, a bakery would make the kumquat pie, a florist would make the kumquat-infused bouquet and boutonniere, a local entertainer would serenade Regina with her favorite song, My Girl, the notary would do the service, the Hampton Inn would give them a free night's stay, a restaurant would give them a pre-wedding lunch, and on and on.
Within an afternoon, a simple anonymous call for a number turned into a huge wedding on the steps of the historic courthouse in front of thousands.
At the Kumquat Recipe Contest a few days later, the chamber women and other local VIPs were coy and kept saying that something "huge" was going to happen at the festival.
"What, are the Spice Girls coming or something?" a reporter asked.
"Bigger," said one person, who wouldn't say what the surprise was. After bobbing around to various insiders who were judging the plates of kumquat-laced food, the truth was unveiled.
"There's going to be a wedding!" said Phyllis Smith, executive director of the chamber. Her enthusiasm was genuine and infectious.
So, at noon at the festival Saturday, the courthouse lawn was filled with strangers and the press waiting to watch the wedding. "The trolley is here," one said and all of the pageant queens with their crowns and sashes lined the sidewalk. It was a gray, drizzly, melancholy day but as the bride and groom stepped off the trolly, both dressed in kumquat orange, the sun broke through the clouds, sparkling on the queens' crowns. As Regina and Jerry walked up, the newly crowned Miss Kumquat, Carly Turner, a willowy 19-year-old blond, began singing The Lord's Prayer a cappella.
The notary, a man dressed in jeans, a shirt unbuttoned showing a bit of chest, and sunglasses on his head, read the service from a folded computer print-out he clutched in his hands. Regina and Jerry said their lines without tears or trembling voices and at the end, when they became one, their kiss was short and they turned and laughed and a whole city cheered.
Reach Erin Sullivan at email@example.com or 813 909-4609.
[Last modified January 30, 2008, 20:52:09]