CROWN POINT —
The replica sailing vessel Lois McClure will lead off the Champlain Bridge Grand Celebration when the new span opens this fall.
Karen Hennessey, co-chair of the Lake Champlain Bridge Community, envisions a Saturday morning opening for the new bridge.
"Our focus is mainly to have a grassroots celebration to let folks know the corridor is reopened and to showcase our area. We want a two-day weekend event with parades."
The Lois McClure will be part of a boat parade. Another parade, on land at the bridge, will include local high-school bands.
The old Champlain Bridge connected Crown Point with Chimney Point, Vt., and was used by thousands of daily commuters before it was closed in October 2009. The structurally deficient bridge was demolished in December 2009, and a new span is under construction at the site.
The old bridge was opened by Franklin D. Roosevelt, then governor of New York, in 1929. Hennessey said they hope to have the governors of New York and Vermont at this dedication as well.
She said the New York State Department of Transportation and Vermont Agency of Transportation will handle the protocol of whom to invite.
The bridge group is not taking any public money for the celebration, Hennessey said.
"We don't want taxpayer money. We'll look for corporate and individual sponsors. This will be a homegrown event."
Flatiron Construction of Colorado is building the bridge after winning the contract with a $70 million low bid.
"We'll ask Flatiron, Goodrich (Aerospace), Cabot (Cheese) to be sponsors. Fireworks will be our biggest expense."
Hennessey, who owns Sugar Hill Manor Bed and Breakfast in Crown Point, said the bridge may open with a ribbon-cutting during the week before the big celebration, but that won't impact their event.
"We want to do everything from a footrace to musical groups, re-enactors, a Saturday night dance, a Sunday morning ecumenical service in the middle of the bridge and Sunday night fireworks."
She said they may ask to close the bridge for an hour or so during their events.
"We'd love to have the Vermont Symphony sitting on the lawn at Chimney Point. We'll shoot for the stars, and if we land on the moon, that's OK."
The group's next core meeting is at 2:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 10, at the Lake Champlain Visitors Center at the bridge site.
Hennessey and Co-Chair Lorraine Franklin will brief the Essex County Board of Supervisors Friday morning in Elizabethtown about the celebration.
"A lot depends on the volunteers we get to help with the committee," Hennessey said. "Everyone has ownership in this. It's two days because we'd like people to come to it as a destination."
The bridge's contract date for opening is no later than Oct. 9, and DOT officials have said it could be any time between mid-August and then when the bridge opens. Flatiron would receive a bonus for opening the span early.
Crown Point Supervisor Bethany Kosmider said the original celebration 82 years ago had 40,000 spectators.
"This bridge celebration will resemble that of the 1929 celebration, and the efforts of Karen and Lorraine to get us there are commendable.
"We are expecting countless numbers of participants and visitors here. The new bridge is going to be our focal point for tourism and commerce."
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