PORT CHESTER, NY -- The is accustomed to playing at many special events, but over the weekend they got to be part of an elaborate plan for a marriage proposal in Manhattan.
The award-winning band went to New York City's Bryant Park on Saturday for a surprise proposal being made by Craig Jones, a senior associate of PriceWaterhouseCoopers. Jones heard about the band, with its unique uniforms, from a co-worker and contacted band director about helping with the surprise.
No problem. The band was in on the plot. Vitti even got Jones a drum major's uniform so he could blend in with the band and Vitti came up with an arrangement of "Hey Baby" at Jones' request.
Vitti said he invited the marching band's seniors to part in the surprise, and about 95 percent of them joined in. A donation by Jones to the band covered expenes for the trip to Manhattan, where Jones had to handle a variety of arrangements to make the staged surprise possible.
The bride-to-be was brought to the park by her sister under the pretense that they were going to meet Jones for lunch. The surprise kicked off with the NY Steppers coming in for what looks like a flash mob, then the Port Chester band made its way into the park.
Jones, dressed in a band uniform, was hidden by the band until they formed up in front of the bride-to-be from Providence, RI, and he came out from the formation.
Vitti said it was his idea to put Jones in uniform to make the surprise even more effective. Jones got into role - using the band major's baton to signal the band to play.
The Bryant Park location, however, was not the original plan. Vitti said Jones wanted to stage the surprise at Grand Central Station in Manhattan, but the arrangements did not come together.
Jones, 26, a native of Kansas City, Kan., started planning the surprise back in February. A friend who is a film industry conspired with him on the idea and the planning. However, he said the plot started coming together when Vetti said he would take care of getting the band to the park.
Jones and his bride-to-be, Allison Leclaire, 29, both went to Syracuse University and knew each other through a mutual friend. However, they did not start dating until they met by chance in Manhattan.
Their romance began with a weekend trip to her hometown, where Jones was going to take part in a triathalon in Providence but he had not made any plans for transportation or lodging. By coincidence, Leclaire, a home textiles designer, was heading home that same weekend for a friend's wedding — so Jones became her date for the wedding and he ended up staying at the home of Leclaire's parents.
For the surprise engagement on Saturday, Leclaire's parents also came to Bryant Park, along with other family members. Jones' parents came up from southern New Jersey, where they live. (A cautionary note: A romantic event does not expempt you from New York City parking regulations. Jones' father's car was towed away as his son was popping the big question.)
Vitti said the surprise engagement is one of many special requests he receives from people who know about the band and want them to perform at events such as large birthday parties, New Year's Eve celebrations and other private events. The band has performed at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and even performed inside Macy's flagship store in Manhattan. The band has played in the halftime ceremonies of the Orange Bowl and in 2005 went to Bermuda to help in the 500th anniversary celebration of the island's discovery.
"We get so many requests I think people forget these are students," Vitti said.
As for the engagement surprise: It worked. Allison said "yes" to Craig. They plan on getting married in 2013.
They also expect to have lots of new adventures since Jones is taking a job with his company in Mexico City, where he will be working with clients throughout Latin America.