BY MARY WICOFF
---- — DANVILLE — Everybody knew Kailey Viano and Michael Burnett would get engaged someday. But nobody — certainly not Viano — expected a proposal that would light up the night sky and cause traffic to slow down.
Burnett, 34, proposed to his girlfriend last weekend with a display at his parents’ home in the 1500 block of North Franklin Street — complete with flashing Christmas lights and a recording of “Marry Me” by Jason Derulo.
“I was totally shocked and ecstatic,” Viano, 27, said, recalling her reaction Sunday afternoon. “I had no idea at all.”
The couple has been together for four years, and had talked about marriage. “But I didn’t think it would be that day,” she said. “Of course, I said yes.”
The display was put up by Burnett’s brother, Kolt Knee. He used a metal grate, put the lights within the holes in the grate and spelled out “will you marry me.” The lights blinked in time with the song.
Other family members were surprised by the nature of the proposal.
Deb Goin of Danville, Burnett’s aunt, said family had been asking Michael when he would propose, and he would answer, “I’ll do it on my own time. You’ll know soon enough.”
That Sunday, Goin had gone to Terre Haute, Ind., to pick up her mother, Rosemary Murphy (Michael’s grandmother), and she got a phone call saying to be at Franklin Street home by 5:30 p.m. She pulled up behind the couple, and witnessed Kailey’s reaction when she got out of the car, and the lights came on.
Michael also gave her a ring.
“She cried and everybody cried,” Goin said of Kailey. “That was the sweetest thing.”
She added, “They are a sweet couple and I’m very happy for both of them. Everybody loves Kailey. It’s exciting.”
Michael and Kailey were wearing their Bears jerseys that day. They had driven to the home of Michael’s parents, Cindy and Kent Knee, on Franklin to watch the Bears game.
Earlier that day, Michael kept rushing Kailey to get ready, as he wanted to get to his parents’ home early. Kailey couldn’t understand why they needed to arrive a couple of hours early.
“He was nervous and excited,” she said of Michael, but had no clue about what was ahead.
Michael had come up with the idea himself, and his brother helped him carry it out. The original plan was to put the lights up at the couple’s home on Brewer Road, but Kolt Knee couldn’t get the metal grate in his car.
Unfortunately, the Bears lost their game that day, but that didn’t diminish the couple’s excitement.
No wedding date has been set yet, Kailey said, adding, “I’m still in shock.”
The couple met when Kailey moved to Danville from suburban Chicago to study at Lakeview College of Nursing. She’s a nurse at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana. Michael works at Bio Alternatives in Covington, Ind.
Goin said, “It’s just like a dream come true for our family.”
The lighted proposal, by the way, was still attracting passing motorists on Christmas Day. The Knee family expects to leave it up a couple more days.