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Duchnowski: Surprise proposal at Corn Fest

Ronnie Tomlinson made his girlfriend of two years cry Sunday.

A longtime stagehand at Corn Fest, Tomlinson took the mic between bands and made a joke about trying a stand-up comedy routine. But he quickly cut to the chase.

“I’m in love with a beautiful, wonderful woman,” he said. “I don’t want to ever be without her.”

That beautiful woman, Helen Peters, was in the audience with friends and relatives when the words “Helen ... will you marry me?” flashed on a monitor and he asked her to come on stage.

“Tears started coming, and I was in shock,” Peters remembers. “My friends were pushing me. Just going up the stairs was so surreal. I couldn’t believe it.”

While she was on stage, he got down on one knee and explained that she was the love of his life. He said he had a Corn Fest family, but he wanted to build a family with her, her two adult daughters – Brittany Peters and Alyssa Peters – and her 5-year-old grandson, Ayden Peters Lusk. He had a ring similar to those she had been eying alone at a jewelry store months ago.

“Obviously, the person I daydreamed to at the jewelry store remembered me,” said Helen Peters, a Sycamore native who lives in Cortland.

She said yes – as Tomlinson said he was pretty confident she would. He’d been pondering proposing to her for weeks, but the idea to do it on stage at Corn Fest just popped into his head Thursday morning. Tomlinson, who has lived in Genoa for most of his life, got Shawn Lowe, Dave Johnson and the rest of the crew from 98.5 WXXQ-FM at Corn Fest to join his plan.

The public platform was a little outside of his private personality, Helen Peters said.

“I never would have expected him to do it so out-of-the-box,” she said. “Of course, any which way he would have done it, I would have said yes.”

They’re thinking about having the wedding about a year from now: perhaps a small destination wedding with a local reception, or maybe a bigger local wedding with all their friends and family.

They met through mutual friends, and their own friendship blossomed.

“I think Ron said he was in awe of me when he first met me, before we were even introduced,” Helen Peters said. “I just always thought he was very handsome; I wasn’t looking for anybody.”

But now, their friends were excited to learn of their engagement. Most of them learned about it on Facebook. You can see a video of Ron’s proposal on the Corn Fest’s Facebook page:

“They all would say: ‘You guys are so cute together,’ ” Helen Peters said. “Even after two years, he always holds my hand. He always holds the door open for me. He’s very kind and considerate and very loving.”

• Jillian Duchnowski is the Daily Chronicle’s news editor. Reach her at 815-756-4841, ext. 2221, or email

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