It's not most people's idea of romance: swapping wedding vows in the blistering heat, amid the aroma of cotton candy and fried food, and small children pleading for just one more ride on the Tilt-A-Whirl.
No organs here, either, just a couple of ukuleles -- and instead of champagne, a plastic cup of sparkling apple juice.
But then Katheryn and Harry Rathbourm aren't most people; they've been married 74 years. And they come back every year to renew their vows at the Orange County Fair.
Harry, 97, still drives -- he just had his license renewed and it's valid till he's 101 -- and for the last five years the Fountain Valley couple have proudly worn their "Number One" sticker at the ceremony. They've been married longer than many people live.
"She just picked me up in the ballroom, down by Ocean Park," Harry said. "She lied to me about her age."
Kathryn, 92, was then only 16 but thought adding two years wouldn't hurt because, she said, "he just looked like he was such a good, husky boy."
The Rathbourms were one of eight senior couples who gingerly climbed up the stairs at the Heritage Stage on Thursday to exchange wedding vows. The occasion was the fair's annual Golden Wedding Ceremony, open to couples married at least 50 years; on every Thursday during the fair run, people 60 and older get $2 off admission and free rides on the Ferris wheel.
"It's so wonderful. Every year [couples] come back," said Judy Hoffman-Wade, who has helped coordinate the event for the last 15 years.
"Sometimes, though," she added, whispering, "they come back and it's only one of them."
"Excuse me, my dear," Hoffman-Wade told one woman next to an empty seat, "you appear to be missing....Oh," she said as the woman's other half appeared.
Edmund Werner, chaplain of Orangewood Children's Home in Orange, presided over the ceremony, looking swanky -- and hot -- in a pale-yellow ruffled shirt, white top hat and white shoes.
First, he asked the secrets to the couples' marriage success. Among the answers:
"It's been tough. Look at all the gray hairs I have."
"Let her think she's the boss."
"Go dancing at least three times a week."
"I've been hanging around because I want to see who gets the last word."
"He's hard of hearing, and that's the truth," Ann Sabina of Newport Beach -- who credited a face lift for her looking younger than her 77 years -- said of her husband. She's been married to Harry Cossman, also 77, for 56 years but is the first to denounce mushy declarations of ever-lasting love and over-the-top sentimental musings.
"I don't think it has anything to do with that," she said, laughing. "We made it work because, I mean, where are you going to go? You've just got to make it work."
Holding hands and staring into each other's eyes, the couples repeated Werner's words, some looking just a little teary.
And then: "You may kiss the bride."
"You have to kiss," Hoffman-Wade admonished those who looked embarrassed.
Paul and Bonnie McKenzie of Garden Grove didn't hesitate. They are still "friskier than a honeymoon couple," bragged daughter Jennifer Corl, 41, of Maryland.
It was special too, because the couple thought they'd have to miss the ceremony this year. Bonnie, 68, was diagnosed with breast cancer in April, and the chemotherapy had left her with no hair. Sporting a flashy red head scarf, she said this was her first trip out in months.
Bonnie's reward came when her husband, 72, told about 50 spectators that he was "the luckiest man alive, and I married an angel from heaven."
Today's highlights at the O.C. Fair
Hours: 10 a.m. to midnight. Location: 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa.
More information: www.ocfair.com or (714) 708-3247
11 a.m.: Rockettes of Riverside
Noon: Scrapbooking -- Sherry Murphy
1 p.m.: Japan Karate Do Genbu-Kai
2 p.m.: Mission Viejo Dance & Performing Arts
3:30 p.m.: Milking demonstration
4 p.m.: Fresh Out Acapella
5 p.m.: Stars on the Rise, Live!
6:30 p.m.: Balladier Lloyd Mabrey
7 p.m.: All Alaskan Racing Pigs
9 p.m.: Barrage
Source: Orange County Fair & Exposition Center
Los Angeles Times