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Published: Saturday, 6/23/2007

Thousands show up early for Skyway bridge dedication

BY DAVID PATCH AND JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITERS

Carrying cameras, American flags, and bottled water, thousands of Toledo area residents proudly walked across the Veterans' Glass City Skyway this morning, just ahead of the dedication ceremony.

Some 65 buses looped around the bridge site to transport the crowds to what many called a "historic event."

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing," said Dave Brown of Toledo as he sat on one of the black chairs set up on the span of the bridge. He was wearing a "Toledo Veterans' Glass City Skyway" T-shirt. "I've got two of them," he said.

Gov. Ted Strickland, speaking at a breakfast for dignitaries held in the nearby Marina District, called the new bridge, "this incredible structure." He praised the "skill and ingenuity" that produced it.

"We are here to celebrate something that is . . . the culmination of intelligence, commitment, investment, and hard work," the governor said.

Many of those who arrived in the first wave of early visitors were veterans or relatives of veterans. Some waved small flags in honor of fallen soldiers, and several Oregon and Toledo residents said they plan to participate in the parade this afternoon.

Roseanne Babiuch, of Toledo, said she was excited to finally be able to see the bridge up close - after keeping a close eye on its construction.

"It's neat," she said. "We've been watching it for years and I've been driving back and forth under it for years. It's finally fun to be on top."

An Jumei, who is from China and is a graduate student at Bowling Green State University, also described seeing the bridge as a once-in-a-lifetime event for her and her family.

"I heard there was a big ceremony and this was a really great work," she said. "I wanted to come see it and I wanted my daughter to experience it."

People started showing at 7:15 this morning to line up so they could be on the first bus to the bridge at 8 a.m.

Among the invited guests this morning were several people who were involved in the naming of the bridge.

One of those people, Harley Weide, of Sylvania, who is a WWII veteran, had nominated the name Glass City Skyway.

"Back then it was just an artist's conception in the paper. This was more than a bridge. This was a highway to the sky," he said.

Dedication ceremonies are set to begin at 10:30 a.m. on the Skyway, followed by a four-mile race/walk at noon, and a motorized parade of veterans' groups and labor organizations at 12:30 p.m.

The $237 million Skyway will open to traffic tomorrow. This might be the only day the bridge is open to pedestrians, and by the size of the early crowds, thousands and thousands of people are taking advantage of the opportunity to click photographs and capture memories.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com.



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