Next time you're sitting in front the , towards the middle of the first row of benches, take a look at the pavers near your feet, and try to find a small, square one that says: "Kelly A., will you marry me?"
Last May, Riley Doering paced—or rather, rolled—back and forth in front of that spot on a pair of roller blades. He knew that he had two surprises nearby that would hopefully change his life forever, one in his pocket and the other embedded in the sidewalk a few feet away.
A few minutes prior, he'd told his girlfriend Kelly Atherton that he would be right back, that just had to go to the bathrooms at The Bread and Pickle. Waiting in the Bandshell parking lot a few hundred feet away, Atherton could see Doering milling around in front of the stage, seemingly for no reason, delaying their roller-blading excursion with her best friend and her best friend's boyfriend.
"I went down there, and he was trying to talk to me," Atherton told Patch, while standing in front of the Bandshell a few days ago. "And I wouldn't let him get a word out—I kept telling him 'Look, we're going to lose our friends, they're going to take off without us!'"
Seeing his chance start to slip away, Doering pulled out what he hoped would be a trump card. He asked Atherton to dance with him—on roller blades—knowing she rarely refused a request like that.
"He rolled me over here," Atherton said while she pantomimed the events of that morning. "I looked down (at the paver), pushed back from him, and said 'Is this for real?'"
Atherton's skepticism was perhaps warranted. Doering had "fake-proposed" twice before, and as he stood in front of her with a smirk, Atherton wasn't sure if he was playing another trick with someone else's paver.
"I said to her 'So, will you?'" Doering told Patch as he watched Atherton's re-enactment.
"And then, you whipped out the ring, and I said 'Is this for real?'" Atherton said, mimicking her shriek of delight, hands flying off her hips and her eyebrows shooting high on her forehead.
"Roller-blading around the lake was pretty difficult after that," Atherton said. "I was skipping and jumping and out of breath."
The year before, Doering said that had heard that Linden Hills nonprofit was offering, for a small donation to the Minneapolis city park system, the chance to have a special message engraved in one of the thousands of that make up the patio in front of the Bandshell.
"Kelly's mom grew up in Richfield, and we all go to " in Lynnhurst, Doering said. "My dad's singing group has performed here for a while, too. I know she's roller bladed and biked around Lake Harriet a lot growing up. It's a really special park for us."
In fact, Doering's plan almost went off half-cocked twice. New personalized pavers are only placed twice a year, in October and in May, and Doering had to frantically call People for Parks in mid-October 2010, to make sure the paver didn't go in before he was ready to pop the question. Then, a few weeks before the fateful roller-blading trip, Atherton, Doering, and some friends were making sidewalk chalk drawings near the paver. Doering said it took some delicate maneuvering to make sure Atherton didn't see the stone.
Next to Doering's paver, there's an identical square sitting empty. Soon, Atherton said, she plans to make sure it will read "Riley D., I do!"
People for Parks still has a lot of pavers to fill. If you'd like to buy one, check out their website for more info.
Do you know of a cuter Lake Harriet story? We'd love to hear it! Leave it in the comments section below.