Doug Reinhardt took his two children to Saturday’s Monroe Street Bridge celebration not just to share in a historic moment, but to show them the result of hard work.
But his “workplace” couldn’t be seen by strolling across the bridge; it required a ride on another piece of Spokane’s history that was reborn – Riverfront Park’s SkyRide.
As the trio rode in the gondola, Reinhardt directed his 11-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter to look at the bridge’s underbelly: “See those arches? I worked on each one of those.”
The Reinhardts were among hundreds who attended the Monroe Street Bridge celebration Saturday. The event kicked off with a fanfare, despite the cold damp weather, and continued throughout the day and evening.
The bridge crowd waved as five 1931 biplanes flew overhead. Spectators clapped as bagpipers led a small parade, which included the first car to cross the bridge – a 1962 Porsche – and listened to dignitaries deliver oratories about completing the 2½ year, $18 million restoration of the circa 1911 concrete bridge.
“Bridges are metaphors for everything in life,” Spokane Mayor Jim West said. “The bridge is not just about getting back and forth between north and south. The bridge is about connecting our communities.”
“It will improve the city’s economy and reduce congestion,” said U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, who helped secure money for the bridge restoration.
West, Murray and City Council President Dennis Hession christened the bridge. In addition to the symbolic bottle of Spokane River water, West insisted no christening would be complete without champagne. The officials smashed two giant bottles over the bridge’s new steel railing – dousing themselves in river water and bubbly.
Then the bridge party was on.
People danced, strolled and rode bicycles across the 893-foot-long span accompanied by live music from the main stage. Food and information booths lined the bridge.
Many on the pedestrian path stopped to marvel at the view of Spokane Falls from the bridge, which is 136-feet above the Spokane River.
Trudy Raymond, a lifelong Spokane resident, wore her grandmother’s 1905 wedding coat in honor of the era during which the concrete bridge was originally built.
“It’s another beautiful historic place that needed to be preserved,” said Raymond, who is married to Dick Raymond, director of Spokane’s capitol projects.
When asked if she was looking forward to being able to drive across the bridge, Raymond said “It’s been more fun just walking and dancing on it. And tomorrow we’ll do a little worship on the bridge.”
“It’s absolutely beautiful,” said Isabel Beatty, who attended the bridge celebration with her husband, Bill. “I’ve missed it.”
The Spokane couple wanted to walk across the bridge Saturday to see it up close, rather than whiz by it in their car. Isabel Beatty said that before the bridge closed, they used it daily for their .
Spokane resident Joe Stassi attended the event to see what the hoopla was all about.
“I’m new here, and they started the project about six months after I got here, so I thought I’d check it out,” Stassi said. “I like the architecture.”
Al Palm was on the Monroe Street Bridge to honor a promise he gave to his late mother, Edna. He said she got sick shortly after the restoration project started and voiced her doubts about the bridge reopening.
“Before my mom died I told her we would grab a latte and come down to walk across the bridge when it reopened,” Palm said. “So that’s why I came down today.”