Ten years ago, during fair week in Statesboro, something special happened at the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair.
Late one morning, before lunch, amid the stilled rides, the colorful stuffed animal prizes, and empty food booths, two people vowed to love one another forever.
They both were carnival workers employed by Amusements of America, which owns the midway featured each year at the seven-county agricultural fair. The groom is from Bulloch County; the bride hails from Mexico, and when they first met, neither of them even spoke the same language.
Ronnie Douberly is away from wife Xochit (pronounced so-she) for their 10th anniversary. He is working the fair’s schedule while Xochit and their six-year-old daughter Victoria Isabel remain at home in Tlatacoyen, Vista Cruz, Mexico. He and his wife are just a phone call apart, however.
Xochit was not reachable by phone to speak about the couple’s unique romance, but Douberly was eager to reminisce as he worked.
He joined Amusements of America 15 years ago and has traveled with them ever since, enjoying a reunion with family members during the week each October when the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair is in town. He started as a bumper car operator and worked his way up to become the current maintenance supervisor.
He remembers clearly how he met Xochit in 2005; she was among a group of Mexican workers hired to work with Amusements of America, and he was one driver who went to Jacksonville, Fla., to pick them up. “She kind of caught my eye,” he said.
Xochit worked in one of the midway’s food booths. Douberly said he found himself inventing reasons to visit that particular food booth, just to catch a glimpse of his crush.
“She wasn’t like everybody else,” he said. ”She was quiet and kept to herself. I would be the guy who grabbed a six pack every night and sat on my steps and talked to everybody.”
But when the fair came to Hampton, West Virginia, Douberly said he found himself drinking a lot of coffee.
“I would, every 30 minutes, get a friend and tell him ‘let’s go and let me get you a cup of coffee.’ I’ve never drank so much coffee in all my life.”
Of course, he bought the coffee at Xochit’s booth, and even though she spoke very little English and he spoke no Spanish, they found a way to communicate.
“I went to Wal-Mart and got a Spanish-English dictionary,” he said. With practice, Xochit developed a better understanding of English and Douberly learned Spanish.
That helped when he visited Xochit’s family in Mexico during the winter, when carnival workers take a break. First he fell in love with the woman, then he fell in love with her home country.
“I had a great time,” he said. “They feed you everywhere you go, so I was always eating.”
The romance grew stronger, and in 2007, on Oct. 11, he and Xochit were united in marriage underneath the office tents behind the midway at the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fairgrounds. Carnival workers, Amusements of America owners Dominic Vivona and wife Helene, several Statesboro Kiwanis Club members, Douberly’s family and a Statesboro Herald reporter were guests.
The love is still strong, he said. The couple talk and text daily.
When I met her, it changed the way I thought about things,” he said.
Since Victoria is in school, Xochit stays home with her while Douberly tours with the carnival, but he always looks forward to the times they can join him at some of the fairs, or he can fly home, he said.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon was there when the couple were married. She can be reached at (912) 489-9414.