The last time the Town Of Middlebury constructed a bridge downtown, Benjamin Harrison was president, Thomas Edison took out a patent on something calling a motion picture camera, and the East Coast was hit with one of the worst blizzards of all time.
More than 100 years later, Middlebury finally gets a second downtown bridge, a majestic structure spanning the Otter Creek that will greatly relieve traffic in one of the most beautiful small towns in New England.
The bridge is the result of a unique collaboration between the town and Middlebury College. Construction posed many problems, particularly the delivery of huge beams through the tight downtown streets, and yet the $16 million structure arrives on time and on budget. It took only 18 months to build, beginning with a groundbreaking in April 2009.
The community will celebrate the historic opening with a day-long party.
The celebration actually beings at dusk night before on Friday, Oct. 29, when the bridge will be illuminated with a kaleidoscope of changing colors. Searchlights will pan the skies, signaling the beginning of the historic festivities.
Through-out the day on Saturday, the bridge will be open to pedestrians, who will enjoy entertainment on the Bridge Bandstand, locally-produced food and drink, and never-before-seen views of downtown. The United State Post Office will issue an historic hand-stamped postmark, available on the bridge - a memento of the event and a prized collectible.
"First Across", the official opening ceremony, is at 4 p.m. In 1891, the first person across the old bridge was Henry Sheldon, who made the trip in a horse-drawn buggy. He will have the honor again, 119 years later, as a man dressed as Sheldon crosses the new bridge in an historic buggy pulled by two Morgan horses.
An outside dance takes over the bridge at 4:30, with locals Jer Coons and the Grift on the bandstand. Coons, with a budding national career, grew up in Middlebury. His father is the local sheriff Jim Coons.
The day ends with a wild fireworks display at 6:30. When the final blast explodes in the sky, the bridge will open to automobile traffic.
For more information, check the Town of Middlebury website, www.middlebury.govoffice.com .
CROSS STREET BRIDGE GRAND OPENING CELEBRATION
Schedule of Events
Friday, Oct. 29
Dusk - 10 p.m. Illumination of the bridge
A kaleidoscope of colors and searchlights kick off the celebration
Saturday, Oct. 30
10 a.m. FUN RUN
Kids run from the Town Green to the new bridge
When they reach the bridge, they receive commemorative hats
Noon - 4 p.m. Classic cars parked and displayed on Park Street
Provided by the Snake Mountain Cruisers
On the bridge from noon to 4 p.m.:
-- Local radio remote
-- USPS historic postmark
-- Local bakery special "Bridge Cake" display
Performing on the Bridge Bandstand:
Noon The Hibernators (Celtic, swing. bluegrass)
1:00 The Middlebury College Community Chorus
1:30 The Mischords (Middlebury College a cappella group)
2:00 Snake Mountain Bluegrass
3:00 Va-et-Vient (Franco-American trio and young dancers)
3:30 Riddim (Middlebury College hip hop dance group)
2:00-4:00 Spooktacular on the Town Green
4:00 "FIRST ACROSS": The Official Opening Ceremony
Parade of kids in Spooktacular costumes, historic vehicles, dignitaries
-- National Anthem sung by the Maiden Vermont chorus,
with the Color Guard from American Legion Post 27
4:00-8:00 Food tent opens. Middlebury restaurants feature local food, ales and wine
4:30-6:30 STREET DANCE ON THE BRIDGE
Featuring Jer Coons and The Grift and a special salute to the music of Michael Jackson
-- Best places to watch fireworks: Cross Street Bridge, parking lot behind library, Battell Bridge or just about anyplace downtown
After the fireworks, the Cross Street Bridge will be open to traffic.
Bridge illumination: dusk to 10 pm.