How do you celebrate the opening of a new bridge? A group of Madison residents are trying to figure that out.
Ten members of a planning group headed by Andrew Forrester, Special Assistant to Madison Mayor Damon Welch, have been meeting in recent weeks to plan a community-wide party when the time comes to open the new Milton-Madison Bridge. They have no budget to pull off the party but are hoping to solicit corporate sponsorships and hold fundraising activities to fund what they hope will be a memorable, once-in-a-lifetime grand opening party. There is a considerable amount of Bridge Mitigation money left in the fund, but it cannot be spent on parties. Rather, it was earmarked to be spent on items and activities designed to help offset the negative economic impact of the two-year construction project.
Photo by Don Ward
The twin Milton-Madison Bridges currently stand side-by-side, a mere 15 feet apart. But soon traffic will be diverted onto the new truss (left) and the old truss will be demolished. Then the pier caps will be added to the existing rehabilitated piers and the new truss will be slide over on them. This historic sliding process is expected to take place in summer 2013, completing the 21/2-year construction project.
So far, these meetings have been primarily brainstorming sessions to try and come up various activities that would involve participation by people in the community, young and old. The ideas range from the formal ribbon-cutting ceremony by dignitaries to informal activities for school-aged children.
Even the mayor is on board with putting on a show for the community because of significance of the much-anticipated event, now scheduled to take place sometime in summer 2013, according to the Milton-Madison Bridge construction team.
We live in historic times, and this new bridge is a history-making project for our community, Welch told the group prior to its Dec. 13 meeting at Madison City Hall. He thanked the volunteer group members for their time in planning the events to unfold.
In Milton, meanwhile, State Rep. Rick Rand is busy planning a reception as well, according to city officials there. He hopes to invite Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear and other state and local officials to a gathering on the Kentucky bank of the Ohio River. Details are still being developed.
Back in Madison, Forrester said he expects a long list of local, state and even national dignitaries to attend the formal ribbon-cutting event. This may well include another visit to Madison by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. He took part in the Nov. 30, 2010, groundbreaking ceremony at the Brown Gym with both states governors, Beshear of Kentucky and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. The event attracted many transportation officials from Indiana and Kentucky, as well as a large crowd of community residents.
Photo by Don Ward
Walsh Construction Co. workers prepare to set the second-to-last beam in place on the new bridge truss on Dec. 19. This section and the final piece above it represented the completion of the 2,427-foot-long steel truss.
The party planners hope to erect a large tent on the Madison riverbank to hold another such event, this time to officially open the new bridge. The bridge project itself is a milestone in engineering because of the way and speed in which it is being built. The bridge sliding of the new truss will be the longest such bridge sliding process in U.S. history. The project has garnered many engineering awards, and the bridge sliding event is expected to attract much attention from the nations engineering community, according to a member of the bridge construction team.
Forrester has recruited a variety of people from diverse parts of Madison, Hanover and Trimble County, Ky., to help plan the celebration. In addition to Forrester, the group includes Laura Hodges (Madison City Council), Linda Lytle (Madisons tourism director), Susan Ohlendorf (education), Rhonda Deeg (Historic Madison Inc.), Jeannie Stotts (Madison Riverfront Development Committee), Kathie Petkovic (business owner), Terri Waller (business owner), Dick Jones (Madison City Council), Larry Newhouse (Madison Main Street Program), Treva Shelton (Hanover Town Council), Jerry Powell (Trimble County Judge-Executive) and Debbie Crawford (representing Milton City Hall for Mayor Denny Jackson).
Some of the party ideas being considered include the following:
An official reception is being planned to take place under a tent at the Madison riverfront. The event may include the cutting of a large cake.
Madison-based singer-songwriter Rusty Bladen has agreed to write a new song for the occasion and perform it live on the Madison mobile stage, ideally to be set up at the riverfront for a concert that may also include other performers.
School children may be videotaped to discuss their thoughts on the bridge building project.
Main Street store owners will be encouraged to decorate their windows during the time of the bridge opening.
As a fundraiser, the group is considering the idea of raffling tickets for a drawing of winners to become the first and last people to cross the old bridge and the new bridge.
A short ceremony is being considered to mark the closing of the old bridge, which opened in 1929 and has stood for the past 84 years.
As a fundraiser, the group is considering the idea of gathering folks who were living during the old bridge opening in 1929 for a group photo in front of the old bridge before it is demolished. They would then sell the photos.
The group is exploring the idea of fireworks to help mark the grand opening.
These ideas are only in the discussion stage, but the time is fast approaching when the group will have to finalize a plan and get the message out to the community because it wont be long before motorists will be crossing the new Milton-Madison Bridge.
And, fireworks or not, that will surely be a cause for celebration!
Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner of RoundAbout. Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email: Don@RoundAbout.bz.