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Couple weds on Carowinds rollercoaster

They said "I do." Then they strapped themselves in, climbed toward the sky and fell at 80-plus miles per hour.

They rode a roller coaster Saturday morning. Not any coaster, but the Intimidator at Carowinds, the same spot Glen Swearengin popped the question almost a year ago to the day to a wide-eyed Wendy Delp.

As Carl Swearengin, Glen's grandfather who has been married to the one-and-only Norma for 52 years, put it: "Marriage has its ups and downs, and I sure heard of taking the plunge, but this takes the cake!"

Slow and stately carriage rides were not enough for Wendy and Glen Swearengin. If she was willing to say yes at the top of the Intimidator last August, and not toss her cookies during the rest of the ride, then they sure had to come back from Christiansburg, Va., where they live to make it official. The couple love the park that straddles the South Carolina/North Carolina state line - they are season pass holders.

Vickie Viars, Glen's mother, performed the ceremony on the platform under the coaster, admitting she never thought her son's wedding would take place under the name and likeness of the late great NASCAR driver and Intimidator himself, Dale Earnhardt.

Before the wedding, Glen did what all grooms do: Look for the exit in case his cold feet turned to ice. He loved Wendy and wanted to get married, but all grooms when the tuxedo is put on get a set of nerves that would shake a building - even without roller coasters.

Wendy walked up the steps of the ride's entrance full of confidence, looking dazzling. Glen had nothing to worry about with this bride.

The nuptials were witnessed by family members who made the trip, and dozens of Carowinds employees and even a few people first in line to ride the Intimidator. The ceremony itself only took a few minutes, and Glen didn't even need anybody to hold him up.

After the kiss made them husband and wife, a Carowinds employee called out, "Anybody from the families wants to ride, now's your time!"

Wendy was asked if she was more nervous before the wedding or now, before the ride.

She said, "The roller coaster!"

Carl Swearengin, that grandfather, drove a '49 Ford and a '50 Buick in those Virginia hills and hollows a lot faster than any roller coaster in his day. Still, he wanted no part of the Intimidator.

Neither did Norma, the happy granny, who said, "I'll keep my feet right here on the ground, thank you."

Glen's mother, the officiant, was nowhere to be found on the ride, either.

"I will marry them, but I am not riding," said Viars. "There are some things a mother will not do. Not me."

Everybody who came forward at this wedding ride had to pass what might be a first for a ride right after a wedding: a sign four feet tall that read, "You must be taller than this to ride."

Getting into the ride was an aunt who took off her highheels, and Glen's father, Roy, who blurted out that he was happy he was already bald because he'd lose his hair riding on a roller coaster. About a dozen people bravely got on the fastest, tallest coaster in the Southeast, including the two front seats where it began a year ago, Glen and Wendy.

The many employees did what they do each time the ride is run under any circumstances. They checked to make sure all riders were in safely. The employees all held up their thumbs to show all was well. It meant the ride, but certainly the whole fun wedding too.

The ride started up the incline, and at the top, it dove and swirled with the happy couple right there in the front. The only screams came from a cousin named Josh Webb, who didn't even try to deny it.

Wendy, the new bride, somehow kept her wedding dress ladylike during the ride.

Glen, the new husband, was asked if he was scared.

"You mean about getting married, or riding a roller coaster?" Glen asked.

The new groom winked. He looked around to make sure his new bride was nowhere close.

"I was more scared getting married."