Catch a replay of Savannah's St. Patrick's Day paradeVoice of reasonCompared to her husband, who was experiencing his first St. Patrick's Day in Savannah, Ansley McGowan is a grizzled veteran of four parades.

"Wear shoes you don't mind getting dirty. They'll be black, either way," advised McGowan, 23. "Prepare for the weather. These girls in shorts are stupid."

Ansley, her husband, U.S Army Sgt. Miller McGowan and their children Jillian, 5, and Cade, 4, were protected from the elements under a tent the Richmond Hill family usually brings to the beach.

"We'd already promised them the parade," Ansley said. "We watched the weather reports. We decided to brave it anyway."

The parade was a first for both Miller, who turns 30 on March 25, and Jillian, who wanted to see the floats. Cade, who turns 5 on March 24, was at his second parade and was looking forward to seeing pirates.

Tough choice

Julie Paul of Savannah has seen the parade from both sides for 30 years, and she admits it's tough to choose which is better.

"Walking (in the parade) vs. partying," said Paul, 36, of Savannah. "I don't know."

Paul said that when she was 6, she walked in the parade with the Hogan family.

"It was really great seeing everybody," she recalled. "You feel like a celebrity."

A pediatric nurse, Paul earned a dose of fame one day when she successfully treated a little boy who had been pulled from the water after almost drowning at Tybee Island beach.

Paul was sharing tent space with her friend Mandy Boyd, who had her own parade story to share.

At last year's event, Boyd was watching and saw her fiancé, John Russell Jr., walking in the parade with the Russell family.

"He comes up and hugs me," Boyd, 24, recalled. "I thought he was going to keep going. He dropped to one knee and proposed to me."

She said yes. The wedding shower was Saturday, complete with St. Patrick's Day theme. The wedding is April 5 in her native Orlando, Fla.

Boyd looked at the gloomy sky and raindrops and said, "It's a good thing (Russell proposed) last year and not this year. It was nice and sunny."

Street artist

Heather Mann is looking at her first St. Patrick's Day parade in Savannah through an artist's eye.

A sophomore animation major at the Savannah College of Art and Design, Mann stood on the sidewalk on Bull Street and sketched figures into her drawing pad.

"As an animator, I need to sketch people's movements, their motions," said Mann, 21, who is from Shelby County, Ala. "Everyone's in green. There are so many people. I was out Friday and there was a band playing and a lot of people getting drunk. I was one of them."

Mann said her work wasn't for a specific assignment.

"This is for fun," she said.

Sweet Charlotte couple

Billie Reitz just turned 65 on March 12. Jesse Backer is 61. They are engaged.

"She's a cougar," Jesse said of his fiancée. "She's a lot of fun. My last wife was 23 years younger. I'll never do that again. I was 44, she was 21."

The couple came south from their home in Charlotte, N.C., for the parade for the second consecutive year. They discovered Savannah when plans didn't work out to attend the annual Spoletto Festival in Charleston, S.C.

"We like this place better than Charleston," Backer said.

"It's more interesting, there's more history and depth," Reitz said.

The same could be said for the couple. Reitz is a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., who moved to Charlotte after a long career as an administrative assistant.

As for Backer?

"I've done a lot of different things," he said. "Nothing illegal."

He said he's trained horses in Kentucky and New York, owned restaurants and run a distribution center.

Now they're semi-retired and making the most of a weekend getaway to Savannah.