Palmer and Caroline Rafferty are not huge race fans, but their wedding weekend had a distinctive racing flair.
The couple was married last Saturday but their big pre-nuptial celebration wasn’t at a country club; it was in the infield at Martinsville Speedway.
Caroline grew up in Martinsville not far from Martinsville Speedway. Palmer is from New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz and the home of Mardi Gras, but certainly not a big racing town. It didn’t take Palmer long though, to be captivated by the historic half-mile oval.
“When we got engaged, I went ‘Caroline, we’re having a Friday night party at the speedway’,” Palmer said.
He said it was pretty simple to win Caroline over.
“It wasn’t hard to convince her,” Palmer said. “Once we had the idea that this is what we are going to do … I mean this is a one-of-a-kind spot in Martinsville … and we both thought an event here would be awesome.”
Friday night, after their rehearsal dinner and with about 500 of their friends and family waiting in the infield, the couple made a grand entrance. With track president Clay Campbell behind the wheel of the pace car, the couple took several hot laps before exiting the car on pit road to a cheering crowd.
“That was amazing, awesome,” Caroline said as Palmer helped her from the pace car.
The couple was quickly mobbed with well-wishers. Hugs, kisses and high fives abounded.
“You know we wanted to start our marriage by starting our engines,” Palmer laughed as he watched Caroline disappear in a group of well-wishers. “I’m a (race) fan. I’ve only been to one race and my second race is going to be Martinsville.”
Martinsville Speedway’s infield underwent a magical transformation for the couple’s party. Thousands of white twinkling lights were strung above tables decorated with black and white checkered flag table cloths. Each table was topped with a vintage gas can filled with large sunflowers.
There was a barbeque buffet with pulled pork sliders, barbeque chicken breast and all the fixings, including huge cookies adorned with the bride and groom’s initials, and of course, a checkered flag.
“This all is way more than we expected,” Palmer said as he watched couples take to the dance floor when Dark Water Redemption began playing the evening’s tunes.
“The staff here has exceeded every expectation we had. It’s an incredible staff, the nicest people and they have done an incredible job.
“Everyone is loving it … everyone is having a great time.”