By Peter Vankevich
The lead up to many weddings can be exciting and stressful when things can go wrong. Most finish well. Many married couples will have empathy and a sense of solidarity when they find out what these two love birds encountered in the past two weeks.
Island residents, Freddy Contreras and Courtney Contreras, née Courtney Colin had been dreaming and planning their wedding for more than a year and a half, soon after Freddy proposed to Courtney in his hometown on a New Year’s eve in Mexico while they were on vacation. The ring was baked into a cake and Freddy removed it and presented it to her amidst much fanfare at party.
The two met while working at the island’s popular restaurant. Courtney said she was immediately smitten by Freddy. Freddy was more slow to the take, not realizing how much Courtney cared for him. He eventually caught on and the feelings became mutual.
Courtney was born and grew up in South Africa. Her family moved to Kansas and her father served as a pastoral minister. After studying at Baker University in Baldwin Kansas with an emphasis on massmedia and Kansas City Community College she studied counseling, she worked with refugees, primarily form Latin America. After a period of time he decided that her calling was to return to South Africa. Courtney was recruited to work on Ocracoke by long-time friend of Justin , son of Doug and Judy Eifert, the owners of Dajios, which is in the building that was formerly the Pelican restaurant. Dajio is an acronym for Doug and Judy in Ocracoke. She accepted the offer in order to save money for her trip.
Freddy moved to Ocracoke as a teenager from his native Hidalgo, Mexico. . Due to circumstances, he was not able to complete his high school and a few years ago, walked into the Ocracoke Library and and inquired how he could obtain a GED. He was paired up with Gary Davis and the two of them worked diligently to pass the difficult test.
Not only did he pass, but obtained such a high grade, he qualified for scholarships and he has been taking online courses with an emphasis on translating and interpreting Spanish and English while continuing to work as the morning chef at Dajios. He nows works as an interpreter as needed at the Ocracoke Health Center and for the Hyde County government. He also is responsible for the translations for the Ocracoke Observer.
The wedding was originally planned to be outside on the grounds of Books to be Red in the same location that the Ocrafolk Festival takes place the first weekend in June. Ten or so days before, Ocracoke started to get rain – lots of it. Leslie Lanier, owner of the book store let them know that if the rain stopped by Monday before the Thursday date, the locations should be dry enough. It didn’t.
Additionally a fast-forming storm system in the Caribbean became Hurricane Joaquin and began threatening to strike Ocracoke. Pastor Ivey Belch of the United Assembly of God church on Lighthouse Rd. offered them the use of the church which they graciously accepted and the outdoor reception was moved to the Community Center.
Meanwhile, about 25 friends and family were headed to Ocracoke for the wedding and soon after their arrival, and the Hyde County commissioners announced that there would be a mandatory evacuation just one hour before the weeding.
Courtney’s pastor Dan Cheverin of the Westside Family Church in Kansas, traveled to the island for the first time. “I’ve officiated for many weddings, but none have been under a hurricane threat,” he laughed.
“The good news is we got through.”
At the reception several of the midwestern guests, accustomed to dealing with tornado threats but not hurricanes said they found the atmosphere a combination of the excitement to be on the island, with a sprinkling of mild anxiety.
“I think all of my Kansas and South African friends and family were all off island by 10 a.m the next day,” said Courtney. It turned out that the hurricane veered east well into the Atlantic which spared Ocracoke a direct hit that many experts feared.
Freddy’s family and many friends were denizens of Ocracoke and took the emergency in stride.
The wedding was bilingual, English and Spanish, so there were some chuckles for Spanish speakers, followed by those that speak English, after hearing the English. Courtney’s mom, Becky Colin and her sister Jameson were readers at the ceremony.
Coyote, Marcy Brenner and Lou Castro, performed at the reception and the food was prepared by Freddy’s mother Cira Contreras and desserts by islander Carol Ritchie.
“Married life and life in general requires one to take into stride the unexpected and one must deal with it,” said Courtney while Freddy nodded in agreement.
The challenging circumstances bode well for a happy marriage.”Boda” is Spanish for wedding, but we’re not sure how to make a bilingual pun. So let’s finish with this, upon hearing of a potential hurricane heading to Ocracoke, one could evoke, “I don’t think we are in Kansas anymore.”