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Gala to celebrate covered bridge’s 130th anniversary

Everybody loves a party. That includes Woolwich councillors, who this week quickly approved a couple of measures clearing the way for a celebration marking the 130th anniversary of the West Montrose covered bridge.

Organized by the BridgeKeepers – aka the West Montrose Residents’ Association – the event is set for Nov. 5.

Event co-chair Barbara Dowling, addressing council Tuesday night, said the gala marks the importance of the bridge, an icon not only in Woolwich Township but in Waterloo Region.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime event to celebrate,” she said of the 130-year history.

Built in 1881 by John and Benjamin Bear, and know as the Kissing Bridge, it’s the only remaining historical covered bridge in Ontario. At one time a provincial responsibility, the 198-foot span is now owned by the Region of Waterloo, and remains one of Woolwich’s premier tourist sites.

The bridge is recognized as a historic site by Ontario’s Archeological & Historic Sites Board, and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2007.

Councillors quickly endorsed a noise bylaw exemption and road closure needed for the celebration, with Coun. Mark Bauman advising the group to take care with the number of people on the bridge, which has a three-tonne load limit. He suggested that having some 40 people could easily tax the structure.

“It would be a shame to lose the bridge when you’re celebrating an event like this,” he joked.

The gala will be held in a 2,600 square-foot heated and decorated party tent on the parking lot of the Olde Bridge Place Inn. It will feature live musical entertainment, a disc jockey, dance floor, hot hors d’oeuvres throughout the evening, and a cash bar. Attendees will be encouraged to stroll through the bridge and community, and to have souvenir pictures taken in a Mennonite buggy that will be position at the entrance to the bridge.

A similar event was held on New Year’s Eve in 1999 to celebrate the millennium, Dowling reminded councillors, noting that it went off without a hitch.

“Anyone who attended that party can tell you that it was a classy gala, and an event they will remember for years.”

The event will run from 7:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Tickets are $75 per person, and are available by emailing events@bridgekeepers.ca or by calling 669-3356 or 669-8911. Dress is “dressy casual.” Proceeds are in support of BridgeKeepers’ efforts to preserve the covered bridge, and the ambience and tranquility of the surrounding community.

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