Before spring break in 2014, Lena Parteleno, who was a freshman at Kent State at the time, was hanging out in Fletcher Hall with some friends. Her friends invited some of their own friends who attended the University of Akron to the dorm to hang out and that’s when Partaleno met Mario Micale.
About six months ago, Micale decided to propose to Parteleno but he wanted to go above and beyond for her and do something really big. That’s when he decided on a flashmob proposal. He spent months contacting 50 of their mutual friends and family members on Facebook to organize the group and iron out the details.
“Like, ‘What are we going to eat after? How are we going to get her there? We have to make sure her nails are done,’” Micale said.
In the midst of his feverish planning, Parteleno didn’t have any idea Micale was planning something in the months leading up to the proposal — until the morning of when she felt her friend Kat, who Micale had been working with to help organize the proposal, seemed a little suspicious.
On June 19, the day before the proposal, Kat and Parteleno spent the day together and got their nails done. The next morning, Micale woke up pretty early and left, saying he had to film something in Kent. Parteleno didn’t think anything of Micale leaving early to film. It was Father’s Day weekend and Parteleno and Kat were planning to visit family for the day — then Micale asked her to meet him in Kent for lunch.
“Kat was like, ‘You need to shower,’ And I was like, ‘OK, whatever,’’ Parteleno said. “Then she's like, ‘You know, sometimes we just need to look nice.’ And while I was showering, she picked out a dress for me to wear, like a whole outfit. And I was like, ‘OK, this is really weird.’ I was wearing shorts and a T-shirt. I was like, ‘Why would I get dressed up?’”
Micale arrived downtown at about 9:30 a.m. to help set up the photographers and videographers, then everyone else in the flashmob showed up to get temperature checks before practicing the dance.
“We did a practice run and, oh God, it was awful,” Micale said. “It was literally so bad… [but] you have to expect that no one's going to practice, so we ran through it like four or five more times...I was literally in the bathroom of GRAZERS changing into my suit and thinking, ‘Oh my God, I hope they get it right.’”
Once Kat and Parteleno made it to Kent, they sat at a picnic table in the Hometown Bank Plaza. Then Chris Brown and Justin Bieber’s song Next 2 You began to play and Kat started dancing.
“Mario and I always liked that song,” she said. “Even since we were in college, I was like, ‘If we ever get married, we're going to do a dance to this song.’ So once the song started playing, I kind of knew. And then right after Kat started dancing, everybody started coming out and I was like, ‘Oh, I think I get it.’”
In the video, Parteleno is smiling and waving to her friends and family. She said she was emotional during the proposal, but also so happy to see everyone because with the pandemic, she hasn’t been able to do that.
“I was just shocked,” she said. “My aunt flew in from Boston with my cousin, my freshman year roommate that I lived with was there and one of my friends from grade school was there. Mario just did a great job. I was trying to just look at everybody. I was just so happy seeing all these people I haven't seen in a long time. I was just trying to absorb the moment of who is here. I was shaking for like 30 minutes after. I was just happy. I was shook.”
Micale said he wasn't nervous about proposing, he just wanted to make sure everything went smoothly.
“Once it happened, it was just this huge relief from the past six months of my life going off my shoulder,” he said. “It was nice and it was just such a great occasion and I'm thankful for it.”
Since sharing the video of the flashmob proposal on Facebook, it has received thousands of likes, shares, nearly 200,000 views and the attention of WKYC Channel 3 Cleveland and 21 WFMJ in Youngstown.
Micale figured the video would do pretty well on social media, but he didn’t expect it to generate the numbers it has so far or to be interviewed by various news outlets.
“I thought just our friends and family — really, our immediate friends and family — would like it, but I mean, there's so many negative things going on in the world with COVID, the riots, everything going on,” Micale said. “It was just such a cool way to bring people together.”
Micale said it was particularly special for Parteleno who is a nurse at Akron General Hospital and has had an extra layer of stress on her with the pandemic.
“Just the fact that she could see [everyone] and be with so many people that loved her was really cool,” he said.
Looking forward, Parteleno and Micale have started researching venues for their wedding and are hoping to plan something for next fall, but planning around COVID-19 is a challenge.
“I think the whole world is going to change after this, but I do hope it is better by then, because I'd like to celebrate with all our friends and family,” Parteleno said. “That's the most important thing to me is just being with the people that you care about and love.”
Contact Maria McGinnis at email@example.com.