Daniel Moomey of Santa Maria remembers when his girlfriend, Veronica Jayne, told him months ago, “If you ever propose to me, just don’t do it in public.”
But because a grand engagement was already in the works, the U.S. Air Force first lieutenant responded to her in a sweetly teasing tone: “You don’t get to decide how I propose to you — all you get to decide is will you say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ ”
Luckily, when Moomey — shaking with excitement — went down on one knee at the crowded Thursday night Farmers Market, after dancing in a flash mob in Jayne’s honor with hundreds of cheering onlookers, she said “yes.”
A flash mob is a sudden assemblage of people performing an unusual act in a public place.
Examples include the spontaneous dance parties that inundated San Francisco on the day of Michael Jackson’s death — announced by text messaging — to highly organized performances such as the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra’s rendition of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” in a mall’s food court in December.
Thursday’s flash mob dance, choreographed by Sabrina Ross of Lompoc, was hardly spontaneous.
Moomey, a Space Defense Operation Center instructor at Vandenberg Air Force Base, obtained a permit from San Luis Obispo’s downtown association and limited participants to the 50 or so performers who attended one of two rehearsals.
Because of hype on Facebook, where the event had more than 860 prospective attendees by Thursday afternoon, and some unintended early publicity by a local television station — many in the audience just before 7 p.m. waited in anticipation — and formed a wide circle around a conspicuously lone disc jockey spinning records.
Jayne — who is earning a doctorate in English as a second language at Purdue University in Indiana — realized their farmers market stroll was unusual when Moomey wouldn’t let her stop to listen to a live band she liked and urged her to go “meet” the disc jockey, his friend.
When the the disc jockey queued up Michael Franti’s “Say Hey,” a song Jayne played for Moomey on their first date, a few dancers rushed into view.
The group swelled as more dancers ran to join the lively choreography with box steps, waving and hip shaking, and then Moomey joined in.
When a selection of dancers zipped open their sweatshirts, each wore a shirt with a single letter on it, spelling: V-E-R-O-N-I-C-A W-I-L-L Y-O-U M-A-R-R-Y M-E ? Moomey wore the question mark.
Jayne appeared speechless in the ensuing flash of camera bulbs and news media interviews — the event was truly a surprise.
Jayne and Moomey, both age 28, were born five days apart at the same hospital in Toledo, Ohio, though they never met until a New Year’s Eve party in their hometown in 2008.
They’ve maintained a long-distance relationship since then, seeing each other only one week every three months, Moomey said.
“They are total sweethearts, both of them. Down to earth and very smart,” said Amanda Stephens, co-owner of Garden Street Goldsmiths & Estate Jewelry, who worked with the couple to custom-design the blue sapphire solitaire engagement ring that Moomey gave Jayne on Thursday night. Stephens’ husband, David Hillebrecht, organized the event on Facebook, because he is outside of Moomey’s social circle and could invite many friends while keeping the event unknown to Jayne, Stephens said.
Indeed, most attendees did not know the couple personally.
David Aguilar, a Cal Poly freshman — who has always wanted to be part of a flash mob — couldn’t get transportation to the rehearsals, which took place in South County.
Nevertheless, he came to the event brimming with excitement for that moment of “surprise” when the action begins.
“Where’s it going to be? What’s it going to be like? It’s exciting to actually get people together to learn something complicated; something that takes a lot of effort; it’s an artistic act,” he said.
And his excitement couldn’t be contained. Half-way through the dance — he joined in.