Happy 75th Martin Bridge!

HISTORY RECREATED: Thousands walked the bridge on Sunday May 17 to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of Martin Bridge. This was a recreation of the first community walk across Martin Bridge in 1940, on the same day 75 years ago.
Nanjing Night Net

THE challenge was set by the Night Bazaar committee and organisers of the Martin Bridge 75th Anniversary.

The committee aimed to recreate the photo of thousands standing on Martin Bridge at the original bridge opening in 1940.

Not only was this challenge met on Sunday May 17, but numbers of bridge walkers exceeded organisers’ expectations.

“We estimate between 4000 to 5000 to have walked the bridge on Sunday,” Night Bazaar committee member Catherine Calvin said. “Although police on the day estimates slightly more.”

In the original photo 75 per cent of the bridge was filled with roughly 3500 in attendance. Organisers believe at one point during Sunday’s bridge walk Martin Bridge was 90 per cent filled with walkers.

The organisers were overjoyed by the support they received from the community.

“There was such a co-operative atmosphere,” Catherine said.

“It could have been difficult, but everyone was in the spirit of making it work.”

The walk ran so smoothly Taree police and SES volunteers were able to open the bridge earlier than expected.

The bridge walk was led by town crier Rod Illidge and Wingham circus group Circartus, creating a colourful display at the front of the crowd.

Those who were part of the original 1940 bridge walk or who had family relations there on the day, were also up the front.

These included Norma Cox (formerly Miss Wicks) who walked when she was 13-years-old, Glad Fernley (formerly Miss Murray) who walked when she was 11-years-old, John Doust who watched the bridge walk at age nine, Wendy McKeough who walked with her nana at four-years-old, Peter Dahdah who had been pushed along in a stroller by his parents, Eric Richardson OAM who went along with a bus load from his school in Wingham, and Harry Dryer, who was a boy scout. Norma Smith’s grandfather was the largest man in the original photograph.

Manning Valley Historical Society (MVHS) had captured their stories and others in the lead up to the day.

In collaboration with Greater Taree City Council (GTCC), MVHS had a historical display, which was a highly popular stall at the celebratory day markets.

“It was a wonderful family day out,” president of Manning Valley Historical Society Barbara Waters said.

“We had a lot of people asking questions and interested in the history of the bridge and the area.”

Manning Valley Business Chamber also saw similar success with those interested in its businesses old and new display.

The 65 market and food stalls on the day boomed with interested and buying customers, said Night Bazaar committee member Annette O’Rourke.

“So many of our food stalls sold out!” Annette said.

“It was great exposure for new businesses and stall holders.

“One lady commented to me ‘It is so nice to see what is available in our area – especially things we don’t always see around'”

Fotheringham Park was alive with old fashioned games provided by Catholic Care, children playing in the park and those enjoying the entertainment on the day.

Entertainment was selected by Night Bazaar committee member Rosie Smith.

“I like to choose acts that are dedicated, local and good at live performance,” Rosie said.

“Performing at events like this are great launch pads for artists, especially young acts like SOAR.”

Rosie had asked two of the acts Tasha Joy Burton and Wingsong to cover 1940s songs, she was amazed when they met the challenge.

Other bands on the day included Jay Davis Trio, Mojo Bluesman, Alyse Gray, The Undecided and Jim Bird.

Jim Bird and Luke Bottomley of Aurora Show Effects handled the music’s production.

The Bean Car cafe enjoyed a full house for most of the day with its recreation of the original menu from the bridge opening.

Member for Myall Lakes Stephen Bromhead enjoyed the menu’s delicacies including Manning Bridge consomm followed by rock bottom chicken and lifting sauce, finished with span trifle and bitumen cream with Pacific Highway jelly and muddy coffee.

Official proceedings of the day included Mayor Paul Hogan cutting the 75th anniversary cake, that was provided by Andy’s Cake Kitchen.

GTCC and MVHS’s historical display is now available to view at the bottom of the administration building. GTCC is currently working to the display available to view online.

The Night Bazaar team will return again in November for the next Taree Night Bazaar.

Martin Bridge 75th Anniversary | Galleries

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