In June of 1987, Jackie and Tim Martin committed themselves to a life of love, togetherness, and adventure. Now, 28 years later, they are still filled with a youthful love for one another and share an adventurous spirit that has yet to be quenched. This thirst for adventure, love for one another, and love of animals is all demonstrated in a tradition that has gone unbroken for the last 27 years. Tim and Jackie have renewed their vows every year in a different state, with only a few exceptions.
Each time they renew their vows, they do so with a different animal present. In past years, their traditional vow renewal has included dogs, horses, pigs, ferrets, bear and wolf cubs, chickens, turkeys, llamas, Siberian tigers, cheetah, skunks, possums, Watusi steer, water buffalo, manatees, and now, black-footed penguins can be added to the list. So after 27 years, in 23 states, with 27 beautiful creatures, the Martins found themselves heading to Kansas looking for the perfect venue.
We here at Tanganyika were so excited when Jackie and Tim contacted us! They soon connected with Holly Page, our Event Coordinator, and she began working with them to organize their vow renewal – including the animals that would make up the wedding’s witnesses. Holly immediately fell in love with the couple. “It was a fantastic experience working with the Martins. As we were talking through e-mail, phone calls, and then in person, they were very open and fun!” said Holly. Soon the date was set, the guests invited, and the penguins prepared! The 28th Martin wedding was a go!
When the big day arrived, Jackie and Tim found themselves strutting across the sidewalks of Tanganyika in wet suits, matching Tanganyika t-shirts, and bucket hats from the Gift Shop. They held hands as Jackie hummed the wedding march. Trailing behind them was a small group of Tanganyika team members, a minister, and the photographers, all smiling and excited for the couple in front of them.
As they entered the pool, Jackie and Tim were beaming when they saw the penguins. It took a little while for the penguins to get used to the Martins, but Jackie and Tim soon charmed the penguins as they do anyone else who meets them. Two of the Park’s penguin keepers, Janiene and Stephanie, were in the pool to make certain that the Martins were comfortable and understood the safety rules, so that both the “renewly weds” and the penguins, would have a great time with the ceremony.
With penguins swimming to and fro, shooting around Tim and Jackie with delight, the Martins took hands and repeated after the words of the minister. Staring into each other’s eyes as the “I do’s” were spoken and the rings exchanged, the Matins were thrilled to be where they were: in the arms of their beloved spouse, in a pool filled with penguins, for the 28th time saying, “I love you forever and ever.”
After the ceremony, the Martins swam around a while longer, with their new-found feathered friends and wedding attendants. Even when the Martins stepped out of the pool, there were a couple of penguins who wanted to follow them out, but they were apprehended by their keepers. As they stepped out, drying themselves in the Kansas sun, they roamed through the rest of the Park.
When asked which of their many vow renewals was their favorite, Tim had this to say: “So far, this one is definitely one of my favorites!” The Martins were truly kind and enjoyable people, with a rich love for animals, nature, and each other. “I’ve been here for a few years, and I have had the opportunity to be a part of some really cool things, but this was by far the best,” says Holly, “and I mean that with all my heart.”
We were honored to be a part of Tim and Jackie Martin’s declaration of continued devotion and love. We are always so blessed to provide these experiences for people and to allow them to connect with animals and one another in a way they never have before. We are given the opportunity to help make those moments happen, and we want to make as many of them happen as possible. Tanganyika Wildlife Park wishes Tim and Jackie every happiness and many blessings, as they prepare for anniversary number 29!