Former Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines was the biggest proponent of the Big Dam Bridge, and he was among those who showed up Thursday to celebrate the l0th anniversary of its opening. Arkansas Online posted some before and after pictures of the Big Dam Bridge. And the Associated Press was there for the big day and took the photographs at the bottom of the page. But the bridge anniversary wasn’t the only one. Buddy launched something else that day, which also has endured a decade.
On September 6, 2006, the day they cut the ribbon on the Big Dam Bridge, Buddy had two important pronouncements to make.
The first was his dedicatory remarks about the bridge, which for all practical purposes was his baby. Pretty much as soon as he quit speechifying, Nancy Green and Rich Cosgrove pulled Mr. Villines aside for his other pronouncement, which was to pronounce them husband and wife.
And thus they made Big Dam Bridge history as the first man and women to marry on what the Twin River Cities boast is the longest bridge ever built strictly for bicycles and runners, and, as it turned out, for the occasional equestrian.
Their original plan was to sneak onto the bridge the day before the grand opening, but Mr. Villines’ couldn’t rejigger his schedule to show up. So they opted for the next day, and Rich is glad they did.
“We had the most expensive, elaborate free wedding in history,” Rich said Friday. “We had 400 guests, none of them invited.”
They wrote their own vows.
“Both of us are Irish on one side and Cherokee on the other,” Rich said. “Our vows were a combination of wonderful spiritual Cherokee stuff and fun Irish stuff.”
They fashioned the end of their vows after a scene from the movie Best Friends in which Burt Reynolds and Goldie Hawn go to a justice of the peace for their wedding. English is not the JP’s first language, and he mangles the end. “With love and affection, I thee endow.”
Rich and Nancy sign off using the JP’s gibberish. (Writing doesn’t do it justice. Watch it for yourself to hear what Rich and Nancy said.)
“Buddy got a big chuckle out of that,” Rich said.
The day after the ceremony, they ran the Big Dam Bridge 5K. Mr. Villines had arranged for a10-foot step ladder, a simple veil and a bridal bouquet. Nancy climbed the ladder and threw the bouquet over her shoulder.
“I’m glad we didn’t get married the day before the grand opening,” Rich said. “The way it turned out was a lot more fun.”