Bridge Day should be an official State Holiday
Bridge Day should be an official State Holiday. At least, for my family and me it should be. We’ve spent a lot of time around the bridge over the years- some of the most important times of my life.
My first Bridge Day was with my grandmother- the same one that taught me to camp, fish, drive a car, and many life lessons that I probably wasn’t even aware of at the time. I can remember being in awe of how high the bridge was as I held her hand in that giant crowd of people. I got goose bumps thinking about the possibility of my father working on that bridge. He never did, but he was offered a job to help build it. Dad decided that with a new baby on the way (me) that he wouldn’t take that risk. I wouldn’t have either.
The whole time I was growing up, I never missed a chance to load up with the family and go take in all that is Bridge Day. The arts and crafts, carnival-type food, crazy parachute jumpers, and the best chance of the year for people watching, southern West Virginia style, were enough to catch the attention any kid, especially me.
I still remember the first time I floated under the bridge in a raft, and the 100’s of times after that. It never got old sharing with tourists some of the experiences that made that view special. The first and only time I got my mom to raft the lower New River, we saw a couple of parachutists poaching the jump several months before the official day (don’t do that, by the way).
It’s funny to me that a lot of people from out of the area would think that anyone from the vicinity could just go parachute off the bridge, like an annual rite of passage. I have a cousin that jumped off the bridge, but he had the required 100 standard skydives before a Bridge Day jump. When people would ask me about it in the raft, my standard answer was always, “Why jump off a perfectly good bridge?”
While in college, I never missed the chance to load up with a group of friends and head out to Bridge Day. I have some great memories of staying up all night around a camp fire, drinking legendary homemade wine, and then rafting down to the bridge, or hiking out to Long Point to get a “locals” viewpoint. Those were great times that I’ll probably never forget (except for some of the parts with the wine).
But my most memorable Bridge Day is the one where I started dating my wife. We were already acquaintances; her best friend dated my best friend. There was something magic in the air that fall evening. We looked into each others eyes, and knew that we were going to take our relationship somewhere neither of us had ever been.
Later on, we lived in Beckwith and worked for Class VI River Runners, almost directly across the gorge in Lansing. The drive to work never got old, especially those mornings where the gorge is shrouded in a fairytale-sized fog cloud, and the sun was shining from above. There were tons of those, and each one made the place feel other-worldly. We were lucky to have those times together, right at the beginning of our relationship.
Whether we make it back for the actual event or not, we try to celebrate the 3rd Saturday in October every year as the day that we got together. We have a boy that is almost three and another one on the way in September. We haven’t been back to Bridge Day since our boy was born, but you can guarantee that we will. We’ll load up the car, park on the side of Rt. 19, and make the walk across the bridge. And standing out there in the crowd, we’ll tell our kids about what Bridge Day has always meant to our family, how it’s become an important setting in the story of who we are. And they’ll then get to be part of it too.
Special Guest Post By:
Mike Powell, 2009
Mike is a Beckley native and long time "Gorge Evangelist". Now living in Canaan Valley with his family, he is a Land Steward for The Nature Conservancy.