BANGOR – A great groan escaped from the crowd gathered early Friday morning in West Market Square when the winners were announced for the “Today” show’s “Today Throws a Hometown Wedding” contest.
The winners weren’t Hampden’s Nick Raymond and Kim Stowell, one of four couples in the running for an all-expenses-paid dream wedding, but “Maine’s cutest couple” took the loss in stride.
In a live broadcast from downtown Bangor, a crew from NBC’s “Today” show filmed the anxious couple and about 100 fans who showed up to cheer them on and maybe get their faces on national television.
Before the winners were named, Stowell said she was – not surprisingly – very nervous.
“We don’t know where the wedding will be [if we win], or what it’ll be like,” the University of Maine graduate student said. “But it doesn’t matter, as long as I get to marry him.”
Mark Dale and Sarah Raley of Valley Lee, Md., were picked as winners by “Today” show viewers in an online poll, which involved about 200,000 votes, according to TV show personnel. The chosen couple will have their entire wedding paid for, with details such as the location of the ceremony and the bride’s dress also being voted on by viewers.
The Maine couple were disappointed but not deterred.
“We had a nice trip to New York City. We were lucky to be chosen in the first place,” the bride-to-be said. “We’re going to get married next August, so we’re going to start planning soon.”
Stowell’s parents, Al Stowell and Brenda Sessions, were avidly snapping pictures in the background.
“They’re still Maine’s cutest couple,” Sessions said. “And I’m Maine’s proudest mom.
“And [Nick] will still be the gas man,” she added, referring to a comment Stowell made on an earlier “Today” show broadcast. Stowell had said that if there was one thing she’d change about her fiance, it would be his occasional problems with flatulence.
Several of Raymond’s co-workers from Hampden Academy, where he teaches math, were on hand.
“They’re just so excited,” Todd Moore, a technology teacher at the school, said. “They’re really tired, but it’s just been great for them.”
The 2004 contest had more than 2,500 couples sending in application tapes to the show. Raymond, originally from Bucksport, guessed the same number, if not more, entered this year.