Neither Gina Picciano nor Jake Stoops expected anything to come out of the "Win a Date with Jake" contest.

Neither Gina Picciano nor Jake Stoops expected anything to come out of the "Win a Date with Jake" contest.

Two years later, the couple are planning a wedding, thanks to the Slainte Thursday contest.

"I'm pretty excited," Picciano said of the May engagement. "I never dreamed that date would amount to who I'm going to spend the rest of my life with. I never thought that contest would pan out."

Neither did Stoops, who worked at the now defunct Your Marketing Corner in Historic Dublin two years ago.

The contest was the brainchild of Historic Dublin Business Association president Eric Leslie; Stoops said he put up resistance to the idea.

"We were trying to help put on Slainte Thursday," Stoops said. "We did a putt around the district, and it was fairly successful. For the second month we didn't know what we were going to do."

Then Leslie suggested the idea: a "Win a Date with Jake" contest.

"I was like 'You've got to be kidding me,'" Stoops said. "I fought him on it for three or four weeks."

The "poking and prodding" from Leslie and others he had enlisted finally convinced Stoops to give in.

"I decided I'd be the guinea pig," he said.

Picciano's participation in the contest also took some convincing; the daughter of Dublin Village Tavern owner Tim Picciano said she'd been to Slainte Thursday but had never participated in any of the contests.

"I happened to call (my dad) one day and he said, 'Come to Slainte Thursday and enter this contest.' My dad knows I'm an outgoing person, so a couple of girlfriends and I came down, and I entered the contest," she said.

Stoops interviewed a few girls for the contest and picked Picciano based on the interview; they set up a date at the Dublin Village Tavern.

"Poor Jake," Picciano said. "At the time I didn't realize my friends and neighbors were going to be there on our first date to see a new band. I had to call Jake before the date; it was like 4 (p.m.). I asked him if he wanted to move the date and he said no. It's pretty funny that at our first date my whole family was there."

Stoops said he also carried a few reservations before the date that led to two years of dating, a May engagement and a 2011 wedding.

"The funniest thing is, (Eric Leslie) and I went to lunch at the Dublin Village Tavern a couple of days before the date," he said. "He probably doesn't remember this, but we were crossing the street and he said, 'What if you just met your wife?'"

Leslie said he was happy to see his "best friend" Stoops find a mate in Picciano.

"Tim (Picciano) is a very good friend of mine. He was like a dad to me growing up in this organization, and Jake is my best friend," Leslie said. "Tim really wanted to support what was going on here, so he called his daughter and said, 'You go do this because I support Eric.' It's amazing that this happened."

The win-a-date contest was repeated once, but Leslie said it didn't see as much success.

"I don't like to count that one, so I'm one for one on matchmaking," he said.

The contest could be resurrected later, though. Leslie said Slainte Thursday tries to offer the best activities, whether it be the "best legs in the kilt" contest, a scavenger hunt or a family appreciation night.

"Those (activities) help us engage people and have conversations to identify what the community wants for this space," he said. "We're trying to understand the desires of the community and sometimes have to go radically outside of the box to find it."

The Aug. 19 Slainte Thursday will focus on the CanAm Police-Fire Games that are in Dublin from Aug. 15 to 21. Leslie said South High Street would be closed for a bike race. Police officers and firefighters will trade patches, and a chili cookoff will be held.

The Sept. 19 Slainte Thursday will celebrate Dublin's bicentennial and the people who have made the community what it is today, Leslie said. The event also will feature music from Jared Mahone and high school band competition winners Lost City, WV.

jnoblit@thisweeknews.com