Chris Smith: Country star Granger Smith and the Santa Rosa sweethearts and one surprise after another

Birthday boy Kyle O'Donnell and his sweetheart Anakaren Perez led a whole entourage of friends and relatives to Country Summer this past weekend at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.

Kyle was to celebrate turning 31 by howlin' to the music of one his favorite performers, Granger Smith. Kyle, a Windsor High grad working for Ghilotti Construction Co., didn't know Anakaren had obtained special passes for the two of them to meet Granger backstage before the show.

That happened, and it was great fun. As the couple conversed with the up-and-coming Texan, Anakaren was oblivious to the subtext and suspense.

Kyle had secretly toiled for weeks to arrange for Granger Smith to bring the two of them up on stage for just a minute. In truth, that's why he wanted his and Anakaren's friends and kin there; his birthday had nothing to do with it.

But the word he had received was that it simply couldn't happen, there just wouldn't be time during the performance for Granger to bring them up.

Kyle was enjoying the show and accepting he wouldn't be able to take Anakaren up on stage when his cellphone buzzed. It was Granger's tour manager.

He told Kyle he had five minutes to get to the stage.

Kyle grabbed his girlfriend's hand and pushed his away through the crowd. Their supporting cast followed along like baby ducklings.

Suddenly the pair was standing up there with Granger. Kyle dropped to a knee while palming the ring his buddy CJ Hollenbeck had guarded with his life.

“Will you marry me?” he implored Anakaren in front of the country singer and everybody. Even the folks farthest from the stage could see that her answer was yes.

As Granger Smith says, it happens like that.


THE AIR SHOW RETURNS to Sonoma County this fall following a one-year hiatus. Can you guess the theme?

It's post-disaster gratitude.

At the Wings Over Wine Country Air Show on Sept. 22 and 23, the hosting Pacific Coast Air Museum will aspire to acknowledge as many as possible of the people who helped out during the fires of October.

If you're aware of a business or a school or an organization or a group of neighbors or anyone else who assisted others of any species during the crisis, the volunteers of the air museum would like to hear about them.

They invite you to write up a few words about why a “Thank you!” is appropriate for the person or people you have in mind and email them to:

PCAM members are working on how best to display the expressions of gratitude at the air show, which happens at the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport.

There was no show last year as museum leaders focused on purchasing buildings next to their current, rented space across the fence from North Laughlin Road. PCAM now owns the offices of the former Dragonfly flight service and the adjacent, World War II Butler hangar, which had its 15 minutes of fame when stunt pilot Frank Tallman flew a twin-engine airplane through it for the 1963 comedy, “It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.”

The museum and its air show are ascending.

Chris Smith is at 707-521-5211 and

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