Xena Blankenship of Spring Valley receives a surprise proposal from her now fiancé, Colton Maddux, on the stage of the St. Mane Theatre in Lanesboro on Christmas Eve.
Xena Blankenship of Spring Valley receives a surprise proposal from her now fiancé, Colton Maddux, on the stage of the St. Mane Theatre in Lanesboro on Christmas Eve. PHOTO COURTESY OF LINDA WATSON

It’s a yearlong tale, but one as old as time…

And, it’s just the beginning for Xena Blankenship and Colton Maddux.

“Last Jan. 4 (2017), my granddaughter, Xena, while in Florida, met the love of her life,” recounted Spring Valley resident Linda Watson. “It was love at first sight and they have been in a long-distance relationship since the day they met.”

Xena, daughter of Mandy Blankenship of Spring Valley, has been homeschooled since she was small, and the family – including her grandparents and sisters – often travel to see parts of America as part of their schooling and family time together.

She’s also been active on the Lanesboro Community Theatre (LCT) stage for the past several years, singing and acting in numerous LCT productions.

However, never in her wildest dreams did she imagine that these two tenets of her life would come together for one of the biggest surprises of her lifetime.

Watson explained, “This Christmas, Colton flew up from Florida to spend the holiday with her…plus, he wanted to surprise Xena by asking her to be his wife.”

After a little planning and some secretive phone calls with Xena’s family, his surprise was arranged. Watson said he would propose to Xena on Christmas Eve on the stage of the St. Mane Theatre in Lanesboro.

“He knew that it is a place where she has met so many dear friends and that it holds many fond theatrical moments for Xena,” Watson explained. “He wanted to honor that love.”

She described the scene from the movie “Beauty and the Beast” that Colton had set for Xena as part of his overture to the girl he’d met just under a year before.

“The stage was set with a single rose-colored spotlight highlighting two candlestick tables – one held a rose in a glass dome, the other, a rose diamond ring. The movie holds special sentiment for Xena and Colton, so it was the perfect setting…theatrical, romantic and thoughtful,” Watson said.

The Blankenship girls – Xena and her sisters, JLee, Elsie and Shelly – are frequent performers on the LCT stage, even on holidays such as Christmas Eve, so the family’s plans to go to Lanesboro on Christmas Eve didn’t seem out of the ordinary to Xena.

“Xena was under the impression she was to perform with her sister, JLee, for a special Christmas Eve show at the St. Mane. So, when the couple arrived, the chatter in the theater didn’t surprise her,” Watson said.

The music wafting over the crowd seemed rather familiar, though, and not something she associated with a Christmas show at all. There was no “Jingle Bells,” no “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” nobody else in costume or dressed up to put on a slam-bang Christmas show for the ages.

“He’d arranged for a sweet guitar instrumental, the theme song from ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ and she wondered what could be going on,” Watson recalled. “She walked through the double doors and realized that it wasn’t a Christmas show after all.”

Watson said Xena’s knees got shaky and her eyes started to tear up, so navigating to the stage required her beau’s arm.

She shared, “Colton brought her onto the stage, and while the lovely tune played, he knelt and asked her to make him the happiest man in the world by becoming his wife. There was not a dry eye in the house, because about 30 dear friends and family were able to come along and witness the proposal on very short notice…and on Christmas Eve.”

After the proposal, and unbeknownst to Colton and Xena, Watson decided to have a friend and fellow performer present a toast of eggnog. “It was the Christmas season, after all,” she added. “So all the guests came onstage and toasted the newly-engaged couple, making a sweet memory for everyone.”

Xena and Colton extended their appreciation to everyone who made their engagement memorable, including the Lanesboro Art Center for the use of the St. Mane Theatre, Phil and Heidi Dybing for the romantic setting they created for Colton’s surprise and the Blankenship’s family who arranged the surprise according to Colton’s wishes and “kept the secret when they so desperately wanted to ‘spill the beans’,” Watson said.

Finally, the couple is very grateful to everyone who shared the moment, the first of many they’ll be celebrating as they plan their late-summer wedding, set for Aug. 17, 2018.