It wasn’t love at first sight. It was friendship.
Tara Shupe met Collin Isham at a sports camp more than 10 years ago. They were 16. The camp was sponsored in part by their church, Community of Christ, and held at Graceland University in Iowa.
“We were on a co-ed soccer league and he ran out being all funny and goofy,” Tara tells me. “He wasn’t trying to be cool. He was cute and tall with some pretty good-looking blue eyes.”
Collin jumps in the conversation, laughing, and says, “She told herself right then she was going to marry me one day.”
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She didn’t. But four months ago they stood at Lake Doniphan in Excelsior Springs and said “I do” to a lifetime of adventure together. And they plan escapades for others, too. On Valentine’s Day the 27-year-olds are hosting the Wild Creatives Couple’s Sunset Adventure, where sweeties will meet at Liberty Memorial for a trolley ride and a Let’s Picnic KC meal.
Magical, right? And to think it took them six years to go on a first date. It wasn’t until they enrolled at Graceland that even a friendship formed. Tara grew up in Independence, Collin in Overland Park.
“She made everyone around her laugh,” Collin says. “Think Kristen Wiig. That’s Tara.”
But they weren’t a laugh factory. They worked together junior year, when Collin was the president of student activities, and almost broke their bond.
“We are both headstrong,” Tara says. “I kept telling my friends he was driving me crazy.”
That next year, Collin and his longtime girlfriend broke up. He confided in Tara on a mission trip to Nicaragua. They talked about their dreams. Soon after, he asked her on a date — dinner (On the Border) and a movie (“Horrible Bosses”).
“I thought we were just hanging out as friends,” Tara says. But the next time Collin took her out, he went in for a kiss.
“He was going to grad school in New Jersey and I couldn’t believe we were starting a relationship,” Tara says.
But they made it work — even when she moved to New York and his Cerner job sent him to the Middle East. He racked up so many frequent-flier miles that they planned a Rome rendezvous.
She was so anxious that he might propose that he told her it wasn’t going to happen. Until, over wine at a cafe, he surprised her with a ring custom-designed in Qatar.
“He’s not usually so smooth, but he put the ring on my finger so perfectly,” she says.
She moved her photo business to Kansas City a year ago, and while planning their wedding they brainstormed the Wild Creatives. Basically, it’s an artsy adventure group.
“I think a lot of Midwest artists feel this pressure of going outward, of having to move away to succeed,” Tara says. “In many ways, I’m discovering the arts scene here for the first time because my career didn’t start here. And I really wanted to embrace the culture here and add to it, to show people we can look inward and have adventure here.”
Tara handles the creative side, and Collin is the numbers man. This time around, he says, their strong personalities help each other shine. From their Thailand honeymoon they brought home a suitcase full of handmade paper. They’ll host an August workshop/brunch to make notebooks.
But a lot of the events, like the first official adventure on Sunday, will revolve around the sunset.
“I’ve always been inspired by sunsets,” Tara says. “You never know what to expect. There is mystery and absolute beauty. I always want to stop and have a moment with it.”
And now they want to share those moments with Kansas City, too.
Valentine’s Day adventure
Wild Creatives will host a picnic from 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday, starting at the Liberty Memorial, with a trolley ride, food, portraits and a toast. $100 per couple. Book by 5 p.m. Saturday at thewildcreatives.com.