Parade and fireworks to keynote weekend bridge party

WEST ADDISON — Around 10,000 people are expected to converge upon the new Lake Champlain Bridge this weekend for a celebration marking the restoration of the vital transportation link between Crown Point, N.Y., and Addison.
A group known as the Lake Champlain Bridge Community (LCBC) has spent many months planning the May 19-20 festivities, which will include a parade, entertainment, vendors and a fireworks display.
Great weather is being forecast and local lodgers and chambers of commerce have been fielding many inquiries in recent weeks from county residents and out-of-staters wanting to make a weekend out of the big bridge bonanza.
“Based on the number of e-mails and phone inquiries, there is a lot of interest,” said Sue Hoxsie of the Addison County Chamber of Commerce.
“The Grand Celebration for the new Lake Champlain Bridge is going to be an amazing two-day event,” said Matthew Courtright, executive director of the Ticonderoga (N.Y.) Area Chamber of Commerce.
“I think there will be a great turnout for the many events and activities being planned for the celebration on May 19 and 20,” he added. “I feel many people will be visiting the area for this event as well as taking advantage of other events that are happening within the region. Hotels and motels have been busy with bookings for this weekend and truly showcasing that our region is open for business and working hard to serve area visitors and the community.”
It was on Oct. 16, 2009, that the previous Champlain Bridge was closed due to unsafe structural conditions. That sent travelers on detours and ferries, which dealt a substantial economic blow to businesses on both sides of the lake. Fortunately, state and federal authorities expedited planning and construction of the new, $70 million span, which opened to traffic on Nov. 7, 2011.
Shortly after the closure of the bridge in 2009, a group of Vermonters and New Yorkers formed the LCBC to speak for the interests of area residents. Now that the bridge is built, the group has raised more than $40,000 in cash and in-kind contributions to give the new span a birthday salute.
But the event is far more than ceremonial. It is also designed to re-introduce locals and tourists to a beautiful region with a lot to offer.
“This is about re-unification and also about getting people back here,” said Lorraine Franklin, a leader of the LCBC and co-owner of the West Addison General Store.
“We are telling people that now, you can get there from here,” she added. “It’s also saying, ‘Don’t just come for this weekend; come back.’”
Some of the highlights of the celebration will include:
•  Opening Ceremony at Fort St. Frederick at Crown Point State Historic Site, 9 a.m.
•  Parade begins on the Vermont site of the bridge. The parade will include an assortment of floats and vintage cars containing some local residents who witnessed the opening of the former Champlain Bridge back in 1929.
•  Flotilla on the lake, beginning at 1 p.m.
•  Vintage car show at Crown Point State Historic Site in New York and Chimney Point State Historic Site in Vermont, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
•  Street dance/concert at Crown Point Historic Site, beginning at 7 p.m.
•  Sunrise service on the pedestrian walkway, 6 a.m. Churches from both sides of the bridge will meet on their respective “aprons” and begin the walk to the center of the new span.
•  Vintage car show continues at Crown Point Historic Site, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
•  Closing ceremony, Crown Point Historic Site, 5:30 p.m.
•  Fireworks display, around 8:30 p.m. The fireworks show is provided by Alonzo Fireworks based in Albany, N.Y., and will be simulcast by WVTK 92.1 FM.
This is just a sampling of the offerings; a full version can be found at www.champlainbridgecommunity.org.
Franklin said more than 40 vendors and numerous entertainers have signed up to participate.
“There will be great shopping opportunities and great entertainment on both sides of the lake at all times,” she said.
Roadways and driveways within the sites close to traffic other than shuttle buses from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Parking will be provided at the Crown Point Historic Site; there will be no designated parking areas on the Vermont side, according to Franklin. Access to the bridge via Route 125 will end (except for local and emergency traffic) at Town Line Road beginning at 9 a.m. until the parade is over, Franklin stressed. After 9 a.m., people can more easily arrive via Route 17, she said.
There will be two shuttle buses running continuously both days during event hours. One will run within the Crown Point State Historic Site from the parking lot to the main site at the museum. The other will run from the old New York ferry road to the old Vermont ferry road. Specific times will be announced.
As of Monday, the Basic Harbor Club in Ferrisburgh had sold five special lodging packages for the Champlain Bridge celebration. That two-person package, beginning at $410, includes two nights lodging, two breakfasts; a narrated lake cruise; transportation to and from the festivities on Saturday and an Addison County farm foods dinner at the bridge location that evening.
Hoxsie noted the Rivers Edge Cottages and Campground in Vergennes, Quiet Valley Bed & Breakfast in Shoreham and other area lodgers have been offering specials.
Starksboro will be participating in the celebration parade with a horse-drawn float. A mini sugar house will figure into the town’s entry. Lifelong Starksboro resident Arthur Clifford, who witnessed the 1929 bridge opening as a child, will be a prominent participant in Saturday’s proceedings.
The DAR John Strong Mansion Museum on Route 17 in Addison will open to the public free of charge on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Vermont Daughters of the American Revolution, which owns the historic home and operates the museum, is holding the open house in connection with the celebration. Visitors to the mansion will be among the first to view the latest interior restoration project undertaken by Vermont Daughters. The new wallpaper installed last fall in the mansion’s dining room was meticulously reproduced from period documents and hand-printed using methods from the 18th and 19th centuries.
The Postal Service will offer a special “stamp cancellation” event on the Vermont and New York sides of the lake from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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