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Contest Winners Ride The Love Train

As a crowd of 300 waited at the 15th Street Station platform, the energy and excitement level was undeniable. This was no ordinary ride on the Market-Frankford Line; the crowd was waiting for the arrival of the Love Train.

Each guest wore a special name tag identifying them ticket holders for hottest Valentine's Day event in the city - chartered tour of the Mural Arts Program's Love Letters Project consisting of 50 rooftop murals in West Philadelphia, best viewed aboard the El between 45th and 63rd streets. When the train pulled into the station, the group boarded the six-car train, which was festively decorated with bright red heart shaped balloons and love signs and messages. The first car was reserved for the event's VIP guests: the 14 winning couples of the "Did You Find Love on SEPTA?" contest; Jane Golden, Executive Director of the Mural Arts Program; Steve Powers, the Love Letters artist; SEPTA General manger Joe Casey; and Mayor Michael Nutter and his wife, Lisa.

As the train traveled through the well-established West Philly neighborhood, Powers assumed the role of celebrity tour guide, using the on-board communications system to point out the colorful, short, love note-like murals painted on the walls and roofs of the local businesses and houses. He also entertained the crowd by singing along to the love songs that were piped through the audio system.

At the end of the tour, Love Train guests and contest winners were ferried to the post-tour Mural Arts sponsored reception on the concourse level of the SEPTA headquarters building. Appropriately themed decorations, consisting of floating hearts with cute candy heart inspired Valentine messages and red and white flowers table settings, created an inviting ambiance. Guests mingled, sipped on champagne and nibbled on hors d'oeuvre. A decadent chocolate fountain seemed to be a crowd favorite, as if symbolic to the overflowing love at the event.

As the crowd embraced the celebration, the Mural Arts Program's Jane Golden, who served as hostess, took to the microphone and graciously thanked everyone for being part of the special Love Train event, adding a special thank you for SEPTA. General Manager Joe Casey also chatted with the guests.

"I've heard the Market Frankford Line referred to as the El, subway, and now the Love Train," Casey said. "I have to tell you, I like Love Train the best!"

Casey also said he was particularly proud to know SEPTA has played a major role in helping so many customers find their soul mates. Nearly 100 couples sent in their SEPTA love stories. Casey asked the 14 contest winners to stand and be acknowledged, and shared a laugh with one couple over their love story.

"Sonny, I read the part of your story where Whitney confesses that she doesn't ride SEPTA as much since you two met. I want you to stop driving her around all the time and buy her a TransPass," Casey said as the audience chuckled. Casey also presented Steve Powers, the artist behind the Love Letter Project, with a SEPTA shirt, and jokingly advised him to "stick to painting, since he showed everyone aboard the Love Train that singing was not his thing."

During his remarks, Mayor Nutter candidly shared his account of an earlier ride he and his wife Lisa had taken on the Love Train many years ago. Although they had been introduced once before when she dropped by the office where he was working to meet a mutual friend for lunch, he recounted how, a short time later, he was riding on the Market-Frankford Line when he spotted her again. Although she had not invited him to sit there, he, nevertheless, took the seat next to her, realizing that he needed to take full advantage of the opportunity.

"Word to the wise: If you can't catch a rap between 15th and 40th Street on the El, there is no hope for you," Nutter told the crowd.

Nutter's rap proved to be successful. Although she declined to give him her telephone number that day, she reminded him that he knew where she worked. The next week, he tracked her down at her job, and the rest is history. So yes, Michael and Lisa Nutter, Mayor and First Lady of the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affections, also found love on SEPTA.

A special cake-cutting completed the romantic evening, with the contest winners joining the mayor and his wife around several cakes decorated for the event. The evening proved to be a truly "moving" Valentine's Day affair.

Contest winners Ruth and Logan (foreground) and Whitney and Sonny (seated in background) ride the Love Train.

General Manager Joseph M. Casey presents a SEPTA shirt to artist Steve Powers as Mayor Michael Nutter and Jane Golden, of the Mural Arts Program, look on.

The mayor and wife Lisa cut the Love Train cake with help from contest winners.

The Nutters shared their own SEPTA love story.