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A prize she didn't count on

Riverside residents who entered Laguna Beach Art Adventure lost the race — but she won a ring from her beloved.

September 26, 2013|By Rhea Mahbubani
  • Jose Ruiz proposes to Amayrani Figueroa, both 24, at Brown's Park's view deck on Sunday.
Jose Ruiz proposes to Amayrani Figueroa, both 24, at Brown's… (Rhea Mahbubani,…)

High above the Pacific Ocean, a wooden railing juts out of the mountainside, bearing testimony to lovers past and present. Dates, names and hearts have been carved into a long-lasting potpourri of amour.

It was here that Jose Ruiz and Amayrani Figueroa's eight-year relationship took an unexpected turn Sunday — well, unexpected at least for one of them.

The Riverside duo arrived at Main Beach at 11 a.m. to compete in the Laguna Beach Art Adventure. They weren't crowned victors of the three-hour scavenger hunt, but Figueroa walked away with spoils of her own — a 2-carat diamond ring, to be exact.

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Education first

Ruiz, 24, first contacted John Hennessy, producer and director of CityRace Urban Adventure Hunts, in 2012. Although certain about proposing to his girlfriend, he decided to wait a year until they completed their education.

"We really wanted to be done with school and have something stable before we took the step of getting married," Ruiz said. "Our parents are not very financially stable, so we wanted something stable for our families, ourselves and our future."

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Earlier this summer, Ruiz graduated with an engineering degree from Cal Poly Pomona, while Figueroa, a criminal justice major at California State University, San Bernardino, got her diploma the same day. With step one of their shared plan achieved, he reached out to Hennessy again.

"He wanted a location that would be very beautiful and romantic, and, of course, I immediately thought of the Laguna Beach hunt," Hennessy said. "There are clues in Heisler Park and Brown's Park, and I thought both of those locations would be great to stage a proposal. They're up high with great views of the ocean and coast. I would propose there!"

Based on Hennessy's recommendation, Ruiz explored both sites and selected Brown's Park. With its tree-lined path leading away from the hullabaloo on South Coast Highway, he saw the area as an ideal fit.

With that taken care of, Ruiz mentioned the competition to Figueroa, who instantly shot him down.

"I don't think it's fun to walk around in the sun," she said, gesturing to an umbrella that shaded her sensitive eyes from the glare. "I was like, 'I'm not going to pay $40 to go and burn myself.' So I told him we weren't [going] unless he won the tickets."

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