*** Published Sunday, Sept 19 in the Bristol Herald Courier. ***
BRISTOL, Tenn. – Kristi Dunbar said that when she and new husband, Kent, were deciding on a wedding date months ago, Sept. 18, 2010, stood out as the perfect compromise – until Kent, in a panic, pointed out a possible conflict.
"He said, "Hey, if we get married then, we're going to miss Rhythm & Roots in Bristol,' " the former Kristi Drum said with a laugh.
"By that time, we'd been going back and forth, throwing out 20 different dates, so I was like, "Come on, Kent.' But after awhile, it hit us: "Let's just go there and get married, too.' And it couldn't have worked out more beautifully."
So it came to be on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Bristol as Kristi and Kent Dunbar combined two of their loves – one for each other, the other for music – by getting married in the grassy courtyard of the Troutdale Dining Room before about 75 guests, most of whom would also later join the newlyweds to catch the Rhythm & Roots concerts and fun on State Street. And, in an added bow to all things Rhythm & Roots, the couple and wedding party were sung to, before and after the vows, by award-winning singer Michelle Malone – who also would perform Saturday evening at the festival.
"I couldn't make this more of a perfect day, from the weather to the woman to the setting to the music," said the groom, a resident of Waterloo, Ontario, in Canada.
Kent Dunbar said he and Kristi, who is originally from North Carolina, first attended Rhythm & Roots last year and instantly fell in love with the festival's energy, crowds and diversity of musical acts.
"There's nothing like being in Bristol for this festival," he said. "Fortunately, I had a fiancée – well, now a wife – who loves it as much as I do."
A member of a music festival board in his native Ontario, Dunbar said he and Kristi had become friends with Malone from her appearances at the Canadian event. He said the couple were totally sold on Bristol for their wedding when they learned Malone would be performing at Rhythm & Roots.
In addition to inviting people from across Canada and North Carolina for the wedding, along with numerous Bristol friends they made during last year's Rhythm & Roots visit, the Dunbars bought 40 festival passes for their guests to use this weekend.
Among the guests attending the wedding – and making plans to hit State Street later Saturday evening – was Peter Braid, a member of the Canadian Parliament who represents Kent Dunbar's Kitchener-Waterloo electoral district and was a high-school classmate of the groom.
"I thought all along it was a wonderful idea for Kent and Kristi to get married here," said Braid, a member of Canada's ruling Conservative Party. "I've been to the U.S., but never here, and it's a beautiful area. When you add in two beautiful people and great music, you can't ask for a better wedding day."