Holidays in the ‘Burgh

Meet the lucky couple who got engaged during the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Pittsburgh

It involved Irish music, a shamrock-bedecked bus, and hordes of excited onlookers.

This fairytale chariot comes with shamrocks.

This fairytale chariot comes with shamrocks.

Courtesy of Ryan McArdle
Rossilynne Culgan

In what may be the most Pittsburgh engagement ever, Ryan McArdle proposed to Robyn Pawlos today during the St. Patrick’s Day Parade with the help of a Port Authority bus.

McArdle (yes, you probably recognize his last name from McArdle Roadway), usually drives the 44 bus route for Port Authority. But today, he drove the Port Authority’s tricked out St. Patrick’s bus along the parade route, making just one stop: On Grant Street, Downtown, where his future wife watched the parade with their family and friends.

Donning an Irish tweed cap, he stopped the bus at Grant Street and Third Avenue, hopped out and got on one knee with a diamond ring in front of Pawlos who said she was “in total shock.”

“He got off the bus and got down one one knee, and I was crying and everybody’s crying,” she said. “I definitely said yes — 110 percent.”

After taking a moment to compose herself, she wrapped her groom-to-be in a hug before he continued on the parade route.

No, she didn’t ride the rest of the route with him, she said, jokingly: “I didn’t have my bus fare there! I couldn’t get on the bus.”

Both McArdle, 39, and Pawlos, 34, have Irish heritage, so St. Patrick’s Day is a special holiday for them, and they always watch the parade from the same spot along Grant Street at Third Avenue.

“It’s always been a special day in my family,” he said. “Starting with me and my grandfather going to the parade as young kids, and it became a part of my tradition.”

For about six weeks, he had been hatching his plan for a St. Patrick’s Day engagement, planning to walk in the parade with a sign. But then yesterday, he heard there was going to be a Port Authority bus in the parade, and it needed a driver.

“I went to my supervisor and said ‘I will drive the bus as long as I can put my sign on it,’” he said.

Permission was quickly granted, and McArdle worked with a friend to affix the sign to the green shamrock-bedecked bus, which played Irish music from its speakers. It certainly attracted attention on the parade route, with excited onlookers very interested in the bus and its sign in particular.

This is the first year Port Authority has driven a bus in the parade. The agency’s new CEO Katharine Kelleman is committed to being “more active and involved in the community and that means participating in events like the St. Patrick’s Day Parade,” a spokesman said.

“People were asking ‘Did she say yes?!,’ and I’m like, ‘She’s down on Third!’” McArdle said. “Everybody was asking and taking pictures, and I felt like I was driving on a cloud.”

The Port Authority’s bus was one of the last floats in the parade on a 30-degree day, and as it finally neared, a friend suggested Pawlos stand for a photo with the bus approaching in the background. Then, somebody shouted, “look at that sign!,” so she turned around and saw the surprise everybody else knew was coming.

“Not a clue — right over my head. Everybody else knew,” she said. “Everybody knew except me.”

And though it was “freezing out, and we are waiting and waiting on this bus,” Pawlos said, true love is worth the wait.

“I would wait for that any day of the week,” she said.

Wedding plans will be in the works soon for the Overbrook couple, but for now, they’re going to celebrate with their loved ones at the family bar, McArdle’s Pub in the South Side, on what’s become a very lucky St. Patrick’s Day.

“It’s definitely Pittsburgh,” the bride-to-be said. “And it’s definitely Irish.”

Celebrating at McArdle’s Pub.

Celebrating at McArdle’s Pub.

Courtesy of Ryan McArdle

Want some more? Explore other Holidays in the ‘Burgh stories.