Lucky bride: Couple marry in 1st St. Patrick’s Day parade

Terri Wilson, Lawrence, married Alan Johnson during the first St Patrick’s Day parade in 1988.

Terri Wilson isn’t likely to forget her wedding day.

She was married during Lawrence’s first St. Patrick’s Day parade in 1988.

It snowed heavily, and her face turned bright green as the nuptials were conducted on a flat-bed trailer traveling over the Kansas River.

“I hadn’t planned it that way,” she says. “It all started out as a joke that took hold.”

Wilson, born in Pittsburg, graduated from Pittsburg State University with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in 1979, and moved to Dallas to work in Corrugated Service’s art department designing Coca Cola products. She moved to Lawrence with her two children in 1982 to be near family and friends.

“Kansas is really my home, and Lawrence is a great place to bring up children,” she says.

Wilson worked at AJ’s tavern on Eighth Street and had no intentions of remarrying, even when pursued by customer Alan Johnson.

“He kept asking me to go out, but I told him I wasn’t interested,” she says.

“I finally gave in, and our first date was on July 7, 1986. We went to see ‘Aliens’ and then for a ride on his motorcycle. We dated for 18 months, and one day, out of the blue, he proposed.”

When a co-worker heard the news she asked Wilson when and where she would be married.

“I laughed and jokingly said we’d do it on a float during the parade,” she recalls.

The friend told other friends who contacted the parade organizers and, before Wilson knew it, plans were afoot for a St. Patrick’s Day wedding. Alan was surprised but agreed it would be fun and different.

Friends borrowed a flat-bed trailer.

“We decorated it with cedar spray and loads of green crepe paper the night before the parade,” Wilson says.

She planned to wear a deep turquoise mid-calf dress with a white rose decorated with oxalis.

“We woke up to heavy, wet snow, and I had to wear a heavy white wool coat,” she recalls.

The inaugural parade left the Flamingo Club at 11 a.m., wound its way over the bridge, around Tennessee and Kentucky and back over the bridge. At noon, the wedding float stopped mid-bridge, and Tim Miller from Kansas University performed the wedding ceremony before the assembled crowd. The happy couple exchanged Irish Claddagh rings (symbols of everlasting loyalty, friendship and love.)

“By then the heavy snow saturated the crepe paper and the green dye started running down on top of us. It was like green snow,” recalls Wilson with a laugh.

“It was everywhere, even on our clothes. Trying to rub it off only made it worse. I took it in my stride, and I’d do it all over again snow or no snow.”

They did so in 2007 when they were selected as the Parade’s king and queen. They renewed their vows on the Courthouse steps before getting into their royal car.

“The St. Patrick’s Day parade really brings the community together, and it’s a great, fun way for Alan and me to celebrate our anniversary,” Wilson says.