Romance is alive and well in the Roaring Fork Valley as evidenced by the 1,226 votes cast by readers in the Post Independent’s Cutest Couple Photo Contest. Out of 97 photos submitted, the first place winners received 147 votes; second place 143 votes; and third place, 85 votes.
Megan Rikhoff and Dylan Lauffer
It took Dylan Lauffer of Rifle nearly three years to get up the nerve to ask Megan Rikhoff out while the two were students at Rifle High School.
But he did and for the past year and two months, they have been a couple — Dylan, 18, attending Colorado Mountain College in Rifle and Megan, 19, a student at Colorado State University in Pueblo.
“We met in high school in my freshman year at a friend’s house,” Megan said. “It was a while before we started dating.”
“She finally got it figured out,” Dylan joked.
It was Dylan’s mother, Michelle, who came up with the idea to enter the pair into the Post Independent’s “Cutest Couple” contest with a photo of the pair and a golden retriever puppy named “Charlie.” The title off their photo is “More than Puppy Love!”
“Charlie is now huge,” Megan said with a laugh. “But [Michelle] did it with our full knowledge. We thought it would be a cute idea.”
Last year Dylan went all out on Valentine’s Day. He bought a large card that covered the door of her locker, gave her a stuffed animal and boxes of three kinds of her favorite candy.
The caption to their winning entry says it all. “True love doesn’t have a happy ending. It has no ending.”
The couple win a $100 gift certificate to Trattoria Dionisia in Glenwood Springs and plan to spend it there for Valentine’s Day.
Jackee Daniels and Nick Mellon
Nick and Jackee met and began dating in 2010 after a Rifle High School football game against Coal Ridge High School.
At 6 feet, 8 inches, Nick towered over the 4-foot, 11-inch Jackee, and after high school, he played football at Western State Colorado University in Gunnison.
“He was tall and handsome, and it was the dimples in his smile that got to me,” Jackee said. “He was so funny. He made everything that was bad in my life just amazing.”
The Rifle couple got engaged and had a daughter, Halle, now 1 1/2 years old.
But everything changed six months ago.
They had gone on vacation in July 2013 and returned in August. Two days later, Nick, 21, died of a heart attack while working out at a gym in Rifle.
Though she sounds cheerful, Jackee admits she’s “not sure” how she’s doing yet.
“I don’t really know,” she said. “I have to pick myself up — I have a daughter to raise. It’s hard becoming a single mom at 19. But I have to pick up the pieces. Nick and I were like two peas in a pod.”
The photo they submitted for the contest was the first one they had ever taken together. The caption to the photo reads, “Loving you is the second best thing I ever did. Finding you was the first.”
Jackee wins a $50 gift certificate to Shear Intensity Hair and Nail in Rifle.
Emily, Nathan and Noah Hodge
It was Emily’s idea to enter the Post Independent “Cutest Couple” contest and her husband, Nathan, just took it in stride.
“I’m always the guy that’s blurred in the background in the photo,” he said with a laugh.
In fact, he says he doesn’t think the couple has even celebrated Valentine’s Day in several years.
“It was her idea and she organized people on Facebook to vote,” Nathan said. “I’m not surprised we were winners, but it did take some effort for people to vote.”
The Hodges met 13 years ago in Steamboat Springs through a friend and have been residents of New Castle for the past nine years. Their baby, Noah, is seven months old.
The family wins a $25 gift certificate to Zheng Asian Bistro in Glenwood Springs.