You know those contests you see on TV or the internet, the ones that give away an all expenses paid trip to here or there? Well, they are real! Last Friday I won an all expenses paid trip to Los Angeles for the American Music Awards (AMAs) through a Facebook contest via ABC Action News.
Music has been my life for as long as I can remember. I took piano lessons as a child, joined the school choir in second grade, started an all-girl rock band in high school, and then went on to be a vocal major at Florida Atlantic University. I have worked at music venues and wrote for the entertainment section of local newspapers, covering all things music! I go to concerts and festivals all over the country. So, naturally, when I got the phone call from ABC Action News Tampa, telling me that I had won a trip to the AMAs – I started balling. Happy tears, of course, but literally crying like my cat had just died. The prize included (2) American Airlines flights from TPA to LAX, (2) nights at the Luxe City Center Hotel, (2) Red Carpet VIP Passes, (2) tickets to the AMAs at Microsoft Theatre, and $100 AMEX gift card for transportation.
Excitement gave way to dizziness. My legs felt weak and a thing layer of sweat formed along my forehead. “Deep breaths,” I told myself, trying to calm down. I wanted to call my parents, but I didn’t want to freak them out. Once my heart rate descended down to its normal rate, I dialed my parents. As soon as my mom answered, all of the emotions returned and I let out a resounding sob… and scared her half to death! Through sputtered sobs, I told her about the prize. In my family, we have what we call “The Cillian Luck,” which, up until that moment, stood for bad luck. She deemed me free of the family curse, and then asked to be put on the waiting list as my guest. As soon as I won, I knew that I would be taking my boyfriend as my guest, but a waiting list quickly started to form once my friends and family became aware of the situation. Some people even joked that they were scheming to get me to break up with him she they could replace him!
After the initial shock of winning such an amazing prize, I realized I only had one week to prepare for the trip of a lifetime. Naturally, being a girl, the first thing that crossed my mind: “What the heck am I going to wear?” Luckily I have a friend who studied fashion, and currently works at Dillards – so I immediately contacted her and asked for help. My mom graciously offered to pay for the dress, so we went shopping on Monday night. I must’ve tried on 40 dresses – I started to feel overwhelmed. My mom suggested that I pick something that I might be able to wear again, rather than just one time. With that in mind, I tried on a green sequin Gianni Bini cocktail dress – and knew it was the one! My friend approved, and even offered to let me borrow some of her accessories to complete the look! I had found my dress and was ready to move to the next stage of the process: paperwork and waiting on the prize to arrive in the mail.
On Tuesday I drove to the ABC Action News station in Tampa to fill out the paperwork. The only down side to winning a prize like this are taxes. I filled out a W9 form, as well as a waiver. Upon completion of the paper work they gave me a nice gift bag full of ABC swag. This just keeps getting better and better! I was informed that our tickets and travel information would be arriving via Fed Ex overnight – and the panic set in. What if they lost my marvelous package? What if they didn’t put the correct address on it and someone else gets it? Can you guess what another family trait the Cillian’s have? Yep – we worry too much. But the envelope arrived on Wednesday morning in one of the most beautiful A&G Envelopes I have ever seen, safe and sound. I ripped it open like a kid rips open presents on Christmas morning. It contained (2) VIP lanyards, (2) tickets for the show, hotel information, and a letter from ABC congratulating me. At that moment it started to sink in: I am going to check off a huge bucket list item. Once again, I couldn’t hold back the tears.
The American Airline tickets arrived via email late Wednesday afternoon – and we experienced our first hiccup: they misspelled my boyfriend’s last name. Panic mode set in again – I tend to over react in these situations. After a few deep breaths, and putting my big girl thinking cap on, I decided to call customer service. They took care of it right away – no questions asked. What a relief! I was worried that, since I did not purchase the tickets, I would not have the authorization to change the name. Kudos to you, American Airlines. You’re the real hero!
The rest of the week was a blur of work, packing, and trying to make arrangements with some of my friends that live out there. Before I knew it, it was Saturday morning and we were on our way to the airport (at 5am… yuck!). I hate flying and honestly just airports in general. My overcautious-self packed our show outfits into a carry on bag. I felt like that good ole Cillian Luck would probably kick in finally, and cause our checked bag to disappear forever. After checking in, we discovered our second hiccup: we were not sitting together. I realized then that calling to fix his last name caused our seats to be changed. So not only would I have to be on a plane for five hours, but I would be sitting next to a complete stranger. “Get over it Kate,” I thought. “You just won this amazing prize!” I quickly changed my attitude.
We made it to LAX around 12:30 (3 hour time change included!). LA is very similar to St. Petersburg, well, weather wise. It was a hot 86 degrees when we walked to the Taxi line at LAX. We grabbed a taxi and headed to the hotel. Thank goodness for the carpool lane. It saved us! Traffic in the “normal” lanes was horrendous, even on a Saturday afternoon. But it was going to be a very busy weekend in the city. Besides the AMAs, there was also a huge Auto show and 2 NBA games!
Saturday flew by – after checking in we met up with a friend in Hollywood and before we knew it we were fast asleep. Sunday morning I woke up at 6am (9am in St. Pete – the 3 hour time change definitely made things difficult). It was the day of the show and the butterflies in my stomach had already begun! I went to the hotel restaurant and ordered breakfast to go. We sat in our room and ate and watched football (the Tampa Bay Bucs game was on at 10am out there – so weird!). I found a hair salon near by and went to get my hair done – I like to leave that to the professionals because I am not good at that, and I really wanted to look perfect!
We were ready to go by 1:30pm, which was good, because we had to be in line by 2:00pm. Microsoft Theatre was right across the street from our hotel – so convenient. Around 2:15 we were shuffled onto the red carpet, into a gated area across from all of the news station cameras. We were directly across from E News! I quickly sent out text messages to family and friends to let them know to watch the E News Pre Show. 20 minutes later, my friend sent me this picture, showing Charlie Puth being interviewed, and a very happy blonde in the background (hey, that’s me!).
We spent about 2 hours on the red carpet before heading inside the theatre. The cold rush of AC felt amazing. But the thing that felt the most amazing was sitting down and taking off my shoes! I don’t know how girls wear heels all of the time – I hate them! They look great but, man, do they hurt! As soon as we were in our seats, we couldn’t believe how amazing our seats were, and how beautiful the theatre was – and right on cue, I started tearing up. I felt so blessed to be able to experience something like that – especially because of how much music means to me.
The show started promptly at 5pm with a performance by J-Lo. For the next 3 hours I danced, laughed, cried, and cheered. It was a whirlwind experience in every aspect. My favorite performance was Coldplay, but honestly everyone was fantastic (well, maybe not One Direction… I didn’t think they sounded good at all). I will cherish this moment for the rest of my life!