Martin Bridge Anniversary

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Annette O’Rourke, Catherine Calvin, Rosie Smith  and James Paton are Night Bazaar team members. Hot on the heels of the success of their first event, the Victoria Street Night Bazaar in November, this enterprising crew are busy planning a massive celebration for the 75th anniversary of the opening of Taree’s iconic Martin Bridge on May 17..

Please reintroduce us to the Night Bazaar community team and concept …
Night Bazaar was formed in July 2014 as a group of like-minded individuals determined to put on free community events that bring people together in a spirit of celebration and co-operation and act as a window to the amazing talents of our area.
Since our very successful Victoria Street Night Bazaar in November – which won the Australia Day Community Event of the Year 2015 (with Tidy Up Taree) – the Night Bazaar team has gone even more adventurous to fashion the newest upcoming event – the Martin Bridge 75th Anniversary Celebrations. This day-time event is full of upbeat and nostalgic activities and will take place on Sunday, 17th May, mainly along River Street, Taree, adjacent to the riverside walk.
Team members are Annette O’Rourke, Catherine Calvin, Rosie Smith and James Paton. Until recently, we had the driving force of the lovely Cynthia Burke, from Wingham’s Little Red Café and Takeaway, but Cynthia’s café and catering business become too busy for her dual role. Original members Maree Cheney, Liz Rankin and Gabriel Darzi (from the Sicilian Restaurants) will be on-hand to help us on the day of the Bridge Celebrations too.

What’s some of the feedback you’ve received about events you’ve planned so far?
People are very excited about our re-creation of the “Bridge Walk” on 17th May, so we have had a lot of great offers from other organisations to get involved. The Manning Valley Business Chamber is right behind the event and will run a special business expo on the day, Manning Valley Historical Society have found locals who were associated with the original bridge opening and documented stories and photos, and the staff from Catholic Care Social Services (Hunter Region) are putting on old-fashioned children’s games for the kids.
Response to our call for market stalls has also been astounding, so the public can expect to see all sorts of products and businesses that they didn’t even know existed around the Manning, Great Lakes and Hastings areas.

Tell us more about the bridge walk planned for May 17, and some of the organisations who’ve helped you organise the event …
The original opening of the Martin Bridge on 17th May 1940 was a huge event in Taree. Dignitaries, including the Premier of NSW, the Hon Alexander Mair, MLA, and the Minister for Works and Local Government, The Hon L.O. Martin, made the lengthy journey from Sydney to be there. Thousands of locals turned out and crowded onto the bridge to be part of this history making spectacle.
VIPs, which also included the Manning Shire President, Cr H.E. Mulligan and officials from neighbouring shires, were raised about two metres above the crowd on the centre, lifting span of the bridge, and addressed the crowd. A few of today’s locals, who were children at the time, including former Councillor Wendy McKeough, are expected to be at the bridge celebrations.
The big difference between our celebrations on 17th May and the original event is that we aim to have a lot less formality. We need everyone taking part to gather on the Glenthorne side of the bridge, along River Street, ready for a mass walk at exactly 10am, when local police will close the bridge roadway to road traffic. This will allow a 20-minute window for a walkover. The crowd will be led by “town crier” and local actor Rod Illidge, as well as a brass band and stilt walkers from Circartus.
With the Manning River Time’s help, we plan to get the crowd to pause on the Taree end of the bridge for a mass photo, similar to the one that was done originally to commemorate the bridge opening.
In consideration to Glenthorne residents, we would love people not to park on the Glenthorne side of the bridge, but walk over.
As well as the organisations mentioned above, a few others have been instrumental in helping our plans come to fruition. We particularly want to thank officers in the heritage and traffic operations area from Greater Taree City Council, as well as Tourism and Events Team Leader, Donna Hudson. And we could not have organised the bridge walk without the cooperation of Taree Police’s Sgt Mick Martin.

After the walk has been completed, what other activities are planned?
River Street, Taree, will be filled with a variety of art, craft, produce and food stalls. Many of these stalls are not the usual, so market goers will be introduced to new businesses that they haven’t experienced before, as well as a few old popular favourites. In the adjacent Fotheringham Park there will historic displays, live on-stage entertainment and old fashioned children’s games, with plenty of room for people to picnic.
At around 10:30am – 10:45am there will be a short official opening in the park and then performers and entertainers, including Tasha Joy Burton, Alyse Gray and Jim Bird will bring celebration goers their musical stylings. Local band Soar, who is straight from a very successful EP launch during the Manning Valley’s Youth week celebrations, are sure to attract crowds and will close the event from the Aurora Show FX stage.
Local café/restaurant owners at the Bean Bar – Ray and Tony – have also pulled out all stops and are creating a special menu from midday onwards at their restaurant at the bottom of Pulteney Street. Their menu is based on the original bridge celebration menu, which was held for VIPs at the nearby Royal Hotel in 1940. With courses like “rock bottom chicken and lifting sauce” on offer and desserts like “span trifle and bitumen cream with Pacific Highway jelly” there’s sure to be some good eating and a few laughs at the restaurant. If you’re keen to take part, be sure to book early to avoid disappointment.

There’s also an Instagram competition happening as a part of the celebrations. What do people have to do to enter? 
Yes, the Manning River Times and Taree Camera House have collaborated to put on a 3-week Instagram competition. Anyone with a phone or camera can enter, simply by getting themselves an Instagram account and hash tagging their photos #MartinBridge75. No need for sophisticated cameras; just get in there and do your best for one of three, weekly prizes.
Week 1 – Theme is an historical pic of the bridge (closes Thursday, April 30).
Week 2 – Most Scenic Snap of the bridge (closes Thursday, May 7).
Week 3 – Best individual or group selfie on or near the bridge (closes Thursday, May 14).
Winners of each section will be announced the following day (each Friday) on Instagram and in the Manning River Times, paper and website editions.

More info?
Keep up to date with what’s happening on our Facebook page, Night Bazaar.

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