While most people decided to stay at home this blustery Saturday, with temperatures in the low 40s, cloudy skies and 35 mile per hour wind gusts, some folks decided to brave the elements and go downtown to visit the Tall Ship visiting Savannah and offering free tours on River Street, while others took shelter inside the Savannah Civic Center for the Irish Festival or browsed the booths at the Southern Women’s show at the Savannah Trade and Convention Center.
Even though it was a rough day, finding a parking spot was even tougher, with many people headed to parties and walking blocks to get back to where they wanted to be.
One lady complained to her friend that it was awfully chilly and wet and her friend reminded her, “We’re from Nebraska, we can handle it,” as they braced into the chilly winds and blinked back tears as fine particles of sand and pollen pelted them in the eyes.
Many eateries had lines waiting out the doors and the vents along the hotels downtown pumped out warm air, making it tempting to camp out there if the view had been better.
A group of Girl Scouts wander River Street waiting for the Tall Ship the Peacemaker to open up the ramps. Two girls slip around the dock ties and wander to the far end of the docks as their leader worriedly calls them back to no avail as her voice is swept back in the biting wind.
The Savannah river churns a pale green froth with white caps that rival the waves at Tybee Island on a calm day.
Flags and shop flyers snap in the wind as the girls scream, “it’s not going to make it! It’s not going to make it!” as a cargo ship from Washington D.C. approaches the Talmadge Bridge heading to the port to unload.
It is an optical illusion but it does look as if the ship is a good ten feet taller than the bottom of the bridge and the girls watch in fascination as their leader tries again to pull them back toward the rest of the group.
In Telfair Square just three blocks up from the river, the Savannah Book Festival is going on. There are all sorts of authors there, none that I have heard of before, and lines and lines of people waiting to have books signed.
I learn later that Al Gore was there as well, only instead of shivering in the park, he is giving a speech indoors at Trinity United Methodist Church.
At Ellis Square a small crowd is gathering despite the darkening gray skies. They spread out in small groups, holding magazines underneath their arms with bright ribbons on a stick and small pouches containing colorful chiffon scarves.
They are talking nervously and shivering in the cold, laughing and excited over what is to come.
Earlier they passed by a somber looking fellow wearing a hat with an orange scarf folded in one pocket and asked, “Are you here for Tuba?”
The man looks to his right and left as if afraid someone will overhear and says simply, “yes”.
He gives the person a scarf or ribbon tucked inside a tour guide and tells them to be discreet.
A store keeper for the Old Towne Trolley tours comes outside to make sure he is not dealing in drugs and is informed that there is a flash mob forming in Ellis Square to surprise a young woman who is being proposed to by her boyfriend of five years.
Tuba Benson-Jaja is proposing to fiancée Ashley Richbourg in a most unique way.
His original plan for the wedding proposal/flash mob involved a marching band, which devolved into a jazz band, which became a bag pipe player, but it was no less fantastic.
Benson-Jaja recruited friends from Facebook in a private invitation to show up on Saturday around noon to collect scarves and ribbons.
Participants, some of whom just happened to wander up and inquire what was going on and wanted to join in on the fun, were told that Tuba and Ashley would walk up from Broughton Street and be approached by a young girl who would inform them that she had lost her family.
Ashley would be told to stay put while Tuba went to help the girl. Then the bagpipe player would distract Ashley while everyone in the square froze in statue form.
As the song A Thousand Years by Christina Perri plays over the loud speaker from Wild Wing Cafe, Tuba’s sister, dressed in a long flowing purple dress with a gold bowed belt begins to dance and touch a small girl who also dances and touches each statue person until everyone joins the dance.
When the song ends, and everyone stands and waves their scarves and ribbons, the Clemson Tiger Mascot rides up in a Pedi-cab along with Tuba's and Ashley’s parents.
One of Tuba’s brothers helps the Tiger adjust his mask so his identity will not be revealed and then the tiger drops to one knee to ask for Ashley’s hand in marriage.
As Ashley cries and shakes and is about to say yes, Tuba yells from the back of the crowd, “don’t marry the tiger Ashley, marry me!!” as he comes down an open channel of people waving a scarf while leaping and drops to his knee to propose for real.
Strangers stop and cheer as brothers, sisters, friends and family wipe away tears.
Anna Jackson, a friend of the couple looks at her own long time beau and tells him he is going to have a hard time beating that one…
He grins shyly, but seems to be scheming and at least has some ideas of how to go about it now.
A woman from Charleston, South Carolina who was in Savannah for a tour is overwhelmed that she got a chance to participate in the event and while it may not have gone exactly as planned, it was definitely a memorable event for all who attended and the light rain that fell just as the proposal was to take place, actually made it more memorable and special. It isn’t just anyone who will come out and dance in a cold rain for their friends and the Clemson Tiger was the real deal, not a guy from a local costume shop, so hey… you can’t beat that. He even posed for pictures for Clemson fans.
If you have ever woken up on a dreary weekend and thought you would be better off in bed, think again.
Sometimes getting out in the city and walking around reveals all sorts of hidden things that will wow and inspire you.
Instead of walking on a treadmill or at the mall, head downtown on the weekend and walk the streets and browse the shops.
City Market is always adding new shops, including Byrd Cookie Company, which is now under the ownership of Mr. Byrd’s daughter who has decided to open the shop on Saturday rather than observe the Sabbath as her father did.
Why not combine exercise with adventure with shopping and food? Downtown Savannah has it all and more, including surprise flash mobs and wedding proposals on a rainy winter day.