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Greensboro ready to go for Wicked, bringing a boost to downtown business

Some traveled hundreds of miles to see the show. One couple got engaged before the show. Overall, it was a big boom to the Greensboro economy.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Years of construction and an extra year of anticipation finally leading up to this weekend.

The Tanger Center held its first show last month and the first Wicked show Wednesday.

This weekend is what city leaders envisioned when they first signed off on the performing arts center project–a bustling scene in Greensboro with people flocking to restaurants, bars and other businesses.

Bringing Broadway to town was sure to bring people downtown.

Everyone in the crowd was seeking a special night with their loved ones but for one couple, seeing Wicked here will always be part of their story.

Before the Thursday show, Ethan Jones got down on one knee and asked Candice Raby to marry him.

He said he planned it all for months sending her a dozen roses to work before whisking her off to a surprise date night.

"She was blindfolded all the way from Danville to Greensboro, didn't know where we were going," Jones said. "The look on her face the minute she realized what was actually happening, made me want to cry."

The couple share a love of theatre so dinner and seeing Wicked for the first time was special already. When he gave her the ring, she couldn't say no. 

"I didn't think would be the first people to do that," Jones said. "That's a big deal, that's really cool."

Others came from hundreds of miles away to see the popular show.

"We have been to see Wicked before with our other kids but it's not playing right now in Atlanta," Laurel King said.

King's daughter wanted to see Wicked for her 16th birthday so mom decided to make it a road trip.

"She looked it up and it was Charlotte and Greensboro and we couldn't come last weekend to Charlotte, so we're here now," King said.

Visitors like these mean a lot for Greensboro after this Broadway debut was delayed a year due to the pandemic.

"It means heads in beds, meals, souvenirs," Brent Christensen said.

Christensen is the president of the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce.

"That means money for Greensboro businesses and that's a great harbinger of things to come," Christensen said.

City leaders hope Greensboro has been changed for good. The newly engaged couple is already planning to return.

"That's something that I will remember forever and ever," Candice Raby said. "We will go see that show every time it comes to town."

The Tanger Center holds about 3,000 people. Dinner reservations are hard to come by but that could change in the future.

City leaders expect another 15 to 20 restaurants to open in the coming years, all because of the Tanger Center.