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Middlebury to celebrate opening of new downtown bridge

The last time the Town Of Middlebury constructed a bridge downtown, Benjamin Harrison was president, Thomas Edison took out a patent on something calling a motion picture camera, and the East Coast was hit with one of the worst blizzards of all time.

More than 100 years later, Middlebury finally gets a second downtown bridge, a majestic structure spanning the Otter Creek that will greatly relieve traffic in one of the most beautiful small towns in New England.

The bridge is the result of a unique collaboration between the town and Middlebury College. Construction posed many problems, particularly the delivery of huge beams through the tight downtown streets, and yet the $16 million structure arrives on time and on budget. It took only 18 months to build, beginning with a groundbreaking in April 2009.

The community will celebrate the historic opening with a day-long party.

The celebration actually beings at dusk night before on Friday, Oct. 29, when the bridge will be illuminated with a kaleidoscope of changing colors. Searchlights will pan the skies, signaling the beginning of the historic festivities.

Through-out the day on Saturday, the bridge will be open to pedestrians, who will enjoy entertainment on the Bridge Bandstand, locally-produced food and drink, and never-before-seen views of downtown. The United State Post Office will issue an historic hand-stamped postmark, available on the bridge - a memento of the event and a prized collectible.

"First Across", the official opening ceremony, is at 4 p.m. In 1891, the first person across the old bridge was Henry Sheldon, who made the trip in a horse-drawn buggy. He will have the honor again, 119 years later, as a man dressed as Sheldon crosses the new bridge in an historic buggy pulled by two Morgan horses.

An outside dance takes over the bridge at 4:30, with locals Jer Coons and the Grift on the bandstand. Coons, with a budding national career, grew up in Middlebury. His father is the local sheriff Jim Coons.

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