ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky. (AP) – When a dancer appeared in mid-July on the Belvedere, Bobbi Jo Saxon of Elizabethtown thought little of it, as the popular Louisville attraction was busy with families and couples enjoying the afternoon.
Saxon was there with her girlfriend, Kara Gilkey, and their son, Tristan, for his 2-year-old birthday photoshoot, when the music began and the dancer distracted the session.
“Well, I thought we were doing family photos, and our 2-year-old was having a complete meltdown to the point where I thought we were just going to pack up and head home,” Saxon said. “Then all of a sudden, there’s dancers behind us and I think, ‘Oh this is cool. Let’s just watch them.’ I had no idea what was happening.”
The dancer performing to “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars, was joined by more and more dancers and eventually about 60 family and friends of the couple wearing purple shirts with “Keep calm and say I do” printed in pink on the front and “(hash)Lovewins” on the back.
That is when Saxon realized the performance was for her.
“I saw people coming around the corner that I knew,” she said about the realization.
The event organized by Gilkey was for a surprise marriage proposal, complete with hired flash-mob dancers.
Gilkey, a doctor originally from Bards¡town, said she knew when the couple met about 10 years ago she wanted to marry Saxon, but wouldn’t do it until it was legal in the couple’s home state of Kentucky.
“I never dreamed of the day I would ever be able to marry you, especially in the state of Kentucky,” Gilkey said in the proposal. “On June 26, the Supreme Court of the United States decided our love was equal to others’ love.”
A tearful Saxon said, “Yes.”
The proposal was more than seven months in the making in anticipation of the U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing same-sex marriages across the country, Gilkey said.
“I spent a long time planning,” she said, adding that involved a level of deception, for which she felt guilty, including fake work meetings and changing contact names in her phone.
Videos were sent to family and friends wishing to learn the dance routine and participate.
The ruse even involved their photographer, Elaina Janes, who had to thwart a couple of missteps and even Saxon contacting her.
“We’ve gone to extreme lengths to cover this up,” Janes said. “Kara had to change my name in her phone. I almost slipped when Bobbi Jo emailed me.”
Gilkey’s mother, Myrna Gilkey of Bardstown, said the family was “scared to death” they were going to “spill the beans.”
“I love Bobbi Jo like one of my own kids,” she said. “Kara is the happiest I have ever seen her and that’s what makes me happy. I’m glad to make Bobbi Jo more officially part of the family.”
The organized and involved proposal was typical of Gilkey’s personality, said Randy Saxon of Iron Mountain, Michigan, Bobbi Jo’s father.
“It’s not unexpected of Kara,” he said. “I’m not saying she overdoes things, she just wants the best. It doesn’t surprise me she’s going to such lengths.”
Randy added he was “tickled to death” for the couple and that the ability for his daughter to marry the woman she loves was a “long time coming.”
“It’s America,” he said. “This should have been a long time ago where they could legally do this.”
The wait is what made this proposal so special for Mitchell Finke, director and choreographer of bookaflashmob.com.
“With everything’s that happened, it was perfect timing,” he said, adding the more than 60 family and friend participants showed the couple had great support.
Jamie Alvey and Brittany Roberts, friends of the couple, came for just that reason, they said.
“I just want to show them my support,” said Roberts, a childhood friend of Bobbi Jo. “They’re awesome.”
Alvey, a friend of Kara, added it helped that she could participate in a flash mob, which was on her bucket list.
“I wanted to be a part of the proposal and I always wanted to be a part of a flash mob,” she said.
The support the couple received was heartening, said Kara’s brother-in-law, Dwight Newton of Bardstown.
“I know how much we love Kara, but I didn’t know how many other people did, too,” he said. “I am amazed by the number of folks that came out and how well it went.”
All that’s left now is the wedding, which Kara said she would leave up to Bobbi Jo.
“She is a party planner,” she said. “She will start the wedding planning the minute we leave here.”
Check out the video of the proposal here.