Every Bridge Day festival seems to be better than the last. But this year, the New River Gorge Bridge’s 40th anniversary celebration adds to the excitement. Find out what inspired the original event— and what’s going on for the party.
How it all began
On Oct. 22, 1977, the New River Gorge Bridge opened to traffic. It was an achievement by anyone’s standards. Graceful yet sturdy, the span broke engineering records. It’s the Western Hemisphere’s longest steel-arch bridge (3,030 feet) and America’s second highest (876 feet). But that’s just the beginning.
The New River Gorge Bridge isn’t on flat ground. Quite the opposite. It straddles a wild river valley that’s nearly 1,000 feet deep. Imagine tackling a project like that! What Ginger Rogers did for dancing (backwards and in high heels), the New River Gorge Bridge did for engineering.
Drivers had another reason to rejoice. Before 1977, the river valley forced people to take a 45-minute route. Winter made commutes even longer. The New River Gorge Bridge changed everything. Smooth and quick, it replaces mountain roads with a 60-second crossing.
Now that’s worth celebrating!
Bridge Day history
In fact, that’s what happened: a festival. The very first Bridge Day launched in 1980. Back then, it featured 2 skydivers, 5 BASE jumpers and commemorative certificates to anybody who crossed the span.
The event has grown ever since. BASE jumpers and rappellers number in the hundreds, while sightseers tally by the thousands. It’s one of America’s most unique, dramatic festivals.
Here’s just a sampling of what’s happened over the years:
- World’s longest bungee jump from a fixed position: Chris Allum tackled this feat in 1992 (although bungee jumping is no longer allowed).
- World’s biggest simultaneous BASE jump: In 1998, a dozen parachutists (followed by 4 others) broke the standing record.
- First high line from the bridge: Since 2002, anybody brave enough can zip line from the catwalk. Interested? High line tickets are available.
The 40th anniversary celebration promises to be a historic occasion, too!
40th anniversary celebration
This year’s Bridge Day— Oct. 21, 2017— marks a significant milestone for the New River Gorge. To celebrate, Governor Jim Justice will visit at 11 a.m. for a special presentation. His talk will be an addition to regular festival events.
What’s more, Sweet T’s Bake Shop from Fayetteville will serve 1,000 free cupcakes! You won’t want to miss these iced wonders. Tandy Dempsey and her crew have a loyal following for their homemade treats.
“We are very excited to share our goodies on the bridge’s birthday,” said Dempsey.
So now you have even more reasons to come for Bridge Day! What do you hope to see or do during the festival?
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