ST. PETERSBURG — Jessica Garvin and her husband, Tommy, were excited to experience the world’s largest Christmas maze, Enchant Christmas at Tropicana Field. Garvin’s mother had gifted the couple tickets, and it became an event, with 15 other family members attending.
They arrived around 7:30 p.m. on Black Friday and made it through the metal detector and up the escalators to the third floor to get food as part of their dinner experience package.
Then, Jessica looked down and realized her wedding ring was missing.
Her aunt had just commented on the ring — it was her first time seeing it — and 10 minutes later it was gone.
“It felt unreal,” said Jessica, 26, of St. Petersburg. “I hadn’t had any trouble before, I hadn’t had any weight loss, it wasn’t loose — nothing. If it felt loose I wouldn’t have worn it. I don’t even wear it to the beach because of the risk.”
The ring is not your typical wedding ring. It’s a 14-karat gold band about 10 millimeters wide with a torn-paper edge and stones set into an engraving.
And to Jessica, it’s much more. The ring symbolizes her marriage to Tommy, their wedding day and their unforgettable engagement — a theme of their best and worst dates.
Their worst date was their first, at The Hangar Restaurant & Flight Lounge inside Albert Whitted Airport. What seemed like a good idea grew annoying as helicopters landed and took off nonstop.
For their engagement, Tommy, 34, called back to the experience in a much better way, placing them inside a helicopter.
Then he recreated their best date, dinner at A Taste For Wine in downtown St. Petersburg, followed by drinks and Uno at Green Bench Brewing. Tommy placed a green bench made from recycled plastic in their front yard. On the bench was a ring box.
The box was empty. But when Jessica turned around, she saw Tommy on bended knee, with the ring.
As difficult as it’s been for Jessica to be without the ring, it’s been even harder seeing how much the loss hurt Tommy.
“Of course it’s devastating to me," she said, “but I didn’t spend months planning an engagement or getting the right ring or planning the wedding. He did all of it. He put so much time and effort into it, and it’s very devastating. It’s irreplaceable for him.”
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It doesn’t help that the ring was not insured. The couple didn’t think to get a policy because they never thought they would lose the ring. But now they’ve made sure to get insurance for Tommy’s.
When they realized the ring was missing, the Garvins notified event organizers, who checked their lost and found and made a public announcement to the nearly 12,000 attendees.
The couple searched for the ring all night, then used flashlights to check the grounds and parking lot. They turned out pockets and at one point patted down Jessica’s 7-year-old niece.
They returned to the Trop the following day and even filed a police report, but still no luck.
“You think, ‘If I just look one more place, we’ll find it. It can’t be gone. It’s here. It has to be,'" Jessica said she told herself.
Jessica doesn’t think someone stole it. She suspects someone might have found it, thought it looked cool and wanted to get money for it.
Stephen Riordan, the city manager for Enchant Christmas St. Petersburg, said the event houses lost and found items in a secure location until the end of the festival, when people can retrieve them.
“We don’t get rid of anything," Riordan said. “It’s certainly our intention to make sure something like that is returned to the owners as soon as possible. That’s definitely the policy, and we do spring right into action as soon as we’re notified that something’s lost.”
The Garvins’ first wedding anniversary is on Jan. 23, the same day as their first date. They are planning a weekend trip to New Orleans to celebrate.
Jessica is holding out hope that the ring will be found before then. She said it’s hard to believe the ring is gone. They’re not ready to replace it.
“I don’t think I’ll ever want another wedding ring," she said. “At least not for a few years. I’ll probably get a tattoo on that finger. To me, it was very sentimental and can’t be replaced. And the next one is just that, a replacement. It’s not the same. It’s a sentiment."