LAKE PLACID - WSLP's morning disc jockey Paul Varga got engaged this past week, showing how romantics use Main Street's festive, holiday atmosphere to win over their brides-to-be.
"It's such a sappy story behind the ring," Varga said, adding that the diamonds were handed down from his mother and great-grandmother. "I went to Beglin's and said, 'I need you to do it like this.' It took him a couple of months, and it's absolutely gorgeous. I said I need a proposal to match this. I can't just do it in my apartment."
So Varga hatched a plan that included that beautiful ring, a sleigh and a little white lie. He was so obsessed by the scheme, it almost cost him a speeding ticket on the way back from North Creek Monday, Dec. 16. A state trooper pulled him over on the Northway but let him go after hearing the story.
"He said, 'What are you doing?' And I said, 'I'm daydreaming.' He said, 'Do you know that when I got behind you that you sped up?' I didn't even realize it," Varga said.
Varga asked one of his contacts at the Mirror Lake Inn to be a co-conspirator and used a medal he earned running the local half-marathon earlier this year to communicate his message. Girlfriend Sara View was his major motivator, and they ran the half-marathon together.
"So I ended up getting the half-marathon medal engraved with 'Marry me.' I put it in a little box, and I gave it to Katie (Welch) at the Mirror Lake Inn at Taste Bistro to put it in the sleigh," Varga said.
It all went down the evening of Wednesday, Dec. 18. Varga told his girlfriend he needed to go to Main Street for some Christmas shopping.
"I said we've got to get a picture by the (Mirror Lake Inn) lights, and I said, 'Let's get a picture by the sleigh,'" Varga said. "Right there at the sleigh was the box, and she opened it. And then she turned it over and saw that it was, 'Marry me,' and I got down on my knee and popped the question. She said yes."
View used to work at Starbucks in Lake Placid and now works for Adirondack Peak Experience, or APEX, in Gabriels as a wilderness therapist. She and Varga have been dating for eight months, and they've already been talking about marriage.
"She's just an amazing, warm, calm, centered person who works really well with my style of life, which is often times hectic and maybe a little ADD-ish," Varga said. "All of a sudden there is a bird, and I'm like, 'Ahh, bird.'"
View knew the marriage proposal was coming eventually, but Varga was certain he had her convinced it would happen after the new year. When it did, there were people waiting behind the Mirror Lake Inn windows to watch.
"The windows line Main Street, and you can't really see in because of the lighting," Varga said. "I guess there were so many people looking out, and I got up and gave her this big hug, and we hear this cheer. I thought there was only one person who knew what was going on, but there were several people."
They haven't set a date or a place for their wedding, but they'll always have that holiday proposal at the Mirror Lake Inn to remember.
"It was a wonderful experience, and I don't think we've stopped smiling," Varga said.
Finding Lake Placid
Varga grew up in southern Vermont for the first part of his childhood and in Clifton Park the rest of it, graduating from Shenendehowa Central School District. He attended SUNY Oswego for a year and transfered to Curry College in Milton, Mass., where he studied communication with a minor in radio, graduating in 2009.
"They have an award-winning radio station, and I absolutely fell in love with it," Varga said. "I had a talk show call 'Hey! Are You Talking to Me?' It was a lot like the show I've been doing here on WSLP for four years where I would be talking about great community events, making sure we were highlighting the community and the events that matter to the community."
After graduation, Varga moved back into his parents' home and spent a summer training to sell insurance.
"I ended up selling no insurance," Varga said. "In fact, I ended up having to pay the company I was working for."
Then he took an Internet sales job at a car dealership in Albany.
"I did OK at it, but it wasn't something that I was passionate about. I was really passionate about radio, so I keep pursuing my career," Varga said.
When Varga saw an advertisement for a position at WSLP on craigslist, he applied.
"It kind of jumped out at me, and a month later I was a scared 23-year-old kid (in Lake Placid) who had never done a morning show position," Varga said. "I was getting adjusted to a new community and living in a tiny apartment. I was all very new and scary. I ate a lot of Chicken McNuggets because I had no clue how to cook for myself."
The mentorship of radio station Vice President and General Sales Manager Jim Williams has been invaluable, he said.
"He really pushes me, and he's pushed me my entire career here to be community minded and embrace the moments that you're going to have up here," Varga said. "He knows more than anybody else that you can have a special moment. He's back from the old-school radio days with the fire truck and the Dennis Ryan days, the heydays of radio here in the early '90s."
The highlight of Varga's radio career so far came in 2011 after Tropical Storm Irene devastated hamlets in the town of Jay. The station sponsored a collection drive for residents in AuSable Forks and Jay, and they netted five truckloads of items.
"I think that was a defining moment for me, knowing that this is such a giving and caring community and we can really do so much is we put our minds together," Varga said. "That immediately shifted something within me and the way I look at the show as really being that opportunity to push the community to be better and to get to that next level."
For his morning show, Varga said his goal is to send positive energy out to his listeners.
"I like to see it as a little burst of energy, that burst of light in the morning, when people can wake up and know they're going to get a family-friendly-type morning show - at times, I hope, funny. I'm sure it crosses the line into a little bit of weird at some times, but that's just who I am."
Asked to share something that his listeners may not know about him, Varga said he's developed a passion for cooking.
"I had to feed myself," Varga said. "I realized that I couldn't be eating Chicken McNuggets every night for dinner. And it took me quite a bit of poundage to realize that."
Varga is continually inspired by the I Love Local Eats Cooking Series and I Love Barbecue Festival, both fundraisers for the Shipman Youth Center. They give him an opportunity to talk with the chefs and learn their techniques, which will come in handy when he finally becomes a married man.
"In our household duties, she does the dishes and I do the cooking," Varga said.