2005-09-03 / News

50,000 Expected To Cross Mackinac Bridge for Labor Day Walk

By Ryan Schlehuber

This year’s annual Labor Day Mackinac Bridge Walk will get started with a bang as fireworks Sunday evening will signal the 2005 walk and the 100th anniversary of the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT). The fireworks will be fired from Dock 3 in St. Ignace, near the Coast Guard station, and should be visible at Mackinac Island, Mackinaw City, and other communities in the Straits of Mackinac.

An estimated 50,000 people are expected to walk the bridge during the annual Bridge Walk Monday, September 5. About 47,000 crossed last year.

Michigan Air National Guard A-10 fighter jets will fly in formation on the east side of the Mackinac Bridge at 9 a.m. Monday in a salute to Michigan’s men and women in the armed forces and their families. The jets are from the 110th Fighter Wing unit at the Battle Creek Air National Guard Base.

The fireworks and fighter jet displays are weather-dependent.

Governor Jennifer Granholm will lead the walkers across the bridge at 7 a.m. Monday, September 5. Three hundred runners, selected at random, will begin the run at 6:45 p.m.

Governor Granholm, who will be accompanied by members of her family, will join senior citizens for breakfast at the office of the Mackinac Bridge Authority at 6 a.m., before the walk.

The breakfast is part of an exercise program called Michigan Steps Up: Get Caught Walking, launched by State Representative Gary McDowell (D-Rudyard) and Michigan Surgeon General Dr. Kimberlydawn Wisdom to help improve health of senior citizens, encouraging them to move more, eat better, and stop smoking. Reservations are required. Senior citizens can call Mr. McDowell’s office for tickets at (888) 737-4279.

AAA Michigan estimates 1.4 million Michigan residents have Labor Day holiday travel plans, the highest since 2001, when 1.7 million people took advantage of the last long weekend of the summer.

During the upcoming Labor Day weekend, according to AAA, 57 percent of state residents with travel plans will stay in Michigan (down from 67 percent last year), and the average trip length will be five days, a trend that has continued since the state-mandated Friday no-school holiday was enacted in 1999.

The $24,000 tab for the fireworks Saturday evening is donated by Kewadin Casino and the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. By comparison, St. Ignace’s Fourth of July fireworks this year cost $7,500.

Fireworks display will be provided by Wolverine Fireworks Display of Kawkawlin.

The walk starts at the north end of the bridge in St. Ignace and ends in Mackinaw City. Walkers from the Lower Peninsula can drive to St. Ignace and park at the Mackinac Bridge Authority parking lot west of the toll plaza, walk south, and then, for $2 per person, ride a school bus back north. They can also park on the south end of the bridge and board a school bus for $2 per person in Mackinaw City for a ride north, then walk back across the bridge.

The school buses are driven by volunteer drivers. The bus stop is at Conkling Park in Mackinaw City and buses begin transporting walkers at 5:30 a.m. Service ends at 2:30 p.m.

The two northbound bridge lanes will be closed for walkers until 9:30 a.m., and the two southbound lanes will be maintained for motorists. Walkers are reminded to stay away from any construction or working fixtures left on the bridge.

There are no restrooms on the bridge and the average time to walk the span is two hours. Portable toilets will be positioned at each end of the bridge and at the bus loading area.

Baby strollers and wheelchairs are allowed on the bridge during the walk, but bicycles, roller skates, skateboards, wagons, and similar implements are not permitted. With the exception of seeing-eye dogs, no pets are allowed.

Michigan National Guard troops and Mackinac Bridge Authority employees will be stationed along the bridge roadway for any emergencies, and ambulances will be stationed at each end of the bridge.

At the completion of the walk in Mackinaw City, participants will receive a numbered certificate to commemorate the accomplishment. Merchants in St. Ignace and Mackinaw City will display numbers in their store windows and matching numbers will earn the certificate holder a prize valued at between $15 and $150.

Free Shuttle to Bridge Walk

A free shuttle to the Mackinac Bridge Walk from the St. Ignace Marina will be offered Monday, September 5, by the St. Ignace Ambassadors of the Chamber of Commerce.

Riders can catch the shuttle at the Marina and will be dropped off at the Mackinac Bridge. No return rides are offered.

More information about the project is available by calling Cheryl Schlehuber at 643-9242 or the St. Ignace Marina at 643-8131.

Early Island Boats

Arnold Transit Company and Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry will provide early boat departures to and from Mackinac Island and the mainland for the Labor Day Bridge Walk.

Shepler’s will have a departure to St. Ignace from the Island at 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. A special departure to the Island from St. Ignace will leave at 6:30 a.m.

In Mackinaw City, Shepler’s will have a boat heading to the Island at 5:30 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. Special boat departures from the Island to Mackinaw City are scheduled for 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. The company will then resume its regularly scheduled departures from both docks.

Arnold Transit has special boat departures from the Island to St. Ignace at 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. and boat leaves St. Ignace for the Island at 6:30 a.m.

INFO BOX

48th Annual Labor Day Mackinac Bridge Walk

Monday, September 5

Bridge Run starts at 6:45 a.m.

Bridge Walk starts at 7 a.m., ends at 11 a.m.

Average walking time is two hours

For information regarding special assistance for disabled walkers, call the Mackinac Bridge Authority at 643-7600.

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