Darah and Bob Latourelle were planning a trip to California wine country with a group of friends when Darah came across an advertisement for a contest held by Sonoma County Tourism.
Contestants were asked to upload either a photo or a video of themselves and explain why they would be the perfect "Sonomads." The Sonoma County Tourism website defines "Sonomads" as "those who embrace the wanderlust of Sonoma County."
Six people would be flown to Sonoma and treated to three days of fun while being photographed and filmed for advertising.
The Bluffton couple uploaded a photo of themselves, along with a brief description of why they'd be perfect for the gig.
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"I started looking at all the entries," Darah said. "Everybody else was doing all this creative stuff, and they're really young and good looking."
Darah and Bob are 62 and 65, respectively. Darah said she didn't think they had much of a chance of being chosen. But much to her surprise, while the they were in Berkeley with friends, Darah received an email from the tourism office, asking her to call. She called and found out they were chosen for the contest.
Twelve days after returning from their trip to California, the couple went back to the Golden State. This time, everything was paid for by the Sonoma marketing company. A limo was waiting for them at San Francisco International Airport. They stayed at the Vintners Inn in Santa Rosa.
While in Sonoma County, the Latourelles went on a safari at a wildlife preserve called Safari West. They went for a ride in a hot air balloon. They did wine tastings, went to a spa, hiked in the Redwoods, went to the beach and more. And while they were doing all that, a crew photographed and filmed them.
"We just thought it was kind of a unique experience," Darah said. "Everybody was really nice."
Both retired from the Beaufort County School District, the Latourelles said they were the oldest people asked to model for the project.
"Darah and Bob are the perfect representatives of what we call 'Sonomads,'" Sonoma County Tourism chief marketing officer Tim Zahner said. "The Latourelles have natural thirst for adventure, are curious about the world around them and enjoy the good life as exemplified by our wineries, our farm-to-table cuisine and stunning natural beauty. We are very lucky that they were able to represent Sonoma County."
He said the judges were impressed by the fact that the Latourelles had been married 39 years and had enjoyed wine all over the world. The couple had been to the Finger Lakes, Tuscany, Provence and Napa before their trip to Sonoma County.
The Latourelles said they thoroughly enjoyed their experience in Sonoma County. But modeling isn't something this Lowcountry couple wants to do full-time.
"People make fun of models," Darah said. "You know, 'How hard is that?' ... And it is."
Follow Amy Coyne Bredeson at twitter.com/IPBG_Amy.