The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

October 18, 2012

33rd annual Bridge Day

— The hills are arrayed, the plans are made, the forecast is checked, the welcome mat is out and Fayette County and her residents are prepared to greet nearly 100,000 visitors to a little party we throw every October at the New River Gorge Bridge.

The fun of Bridge Day weekend will kick off officially on Friday with the ever-popular WOAY Taste of Bridge Day event at Smokey’s on the Gorge, hosted by the Oak Hill and Fayetteville Rotary clubs. Succulent food and scrumptious desserts from some of the region’s finest restaurants annually combine with incredible views of the New River Gorge and the friendliness of locals for an evening to delight visitors, and to benefit local charitable efforts of the clubs.

Saturday morning’s activities begin well before it’s “bright and early,” with Bridge Day Commission staff and volunteers, law enforcement officials and rescue personnel, emergency services teams and safety teams, not to mention around 200 vendors, heading out to the bridge in the pre-dawn. The labor-intensive effort will result in what visitors will enjoy as the 33rd annual New River Gorge Bridge Day, which runs from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.

The seemingly labor-intensive one-day effort obviously goes far beyond the work of one day, however.

Year-round planning by Cindy Dragan, Bridge Day chair, and the Bridge Day Commission (comprised of representatives of the West Virginia State Police, state Division of Highways, Fayette County Sheriff’s Department, Fayette County Chamber of Commerce, Fayette County Commission and the Town of Fayetteville) is the norm rather than the exception. The Commission meets monthly year-round, and, in the month leading up to Bridge Day, once each week.

And the preparations spread out far beyond that handful of individuals tasked with the official operation of Bridge Day.

The Fayette County Chamber of Commerce and New River Gorge Convention & Visitors Bureau and their volunteers work all year in anticipation of the state’s largest single one-day event.

Jason Bell and his Vertical Visions team, which operates Bridge Day BASE jumping, and Benjy Simpson and his crew that handles rappelling, plan for hours on end.

Safety teams, formed by a conglomeration of law enforcement officials, and emergency services teams, along with National Park Service crews and rescue crews in boats on the New River all plan every aspect of their involvement in Bridge Day.

Volunteers, individuals and groups from local clubs, churches and schools, as well as businesses, work for months planning their involvement in the event.

Bridge Day doesn’t just happen, and those who work countless and often thankless hours year-round in preparation do deserve to be thanked, and we are happy to do so as we look forward to another successful celebration.

We urge everyone visiting the event to enjoy the beauty of Fayette County, the excitement of Bridge Day, and to be safe in your travels.

And, if you find you like Fayette County as much as we do, stop and stay a while. We’d be glad to have you.