Hello and goodbye for Johnson Street bridges at Saturday celebration

A community picnic and street party including food trucks, live music and crafts for kids are planned for Saturday to say goodbye to the “Old Blue” bridge and usher in its $105-million replacement.

“The idea is to come say goodbye and come say hello,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.

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The celebration is the result of requests from the community “to say goodbye to Old Blue,” Helps said.

There’s a desire for the bridge go out with a roar rather than a whisper, the mayor said.

“Not every performer gets to celebrate the opening of a major infrastructure project — it’s the Stanley Cup of musical performances,” said William Farrant, bassist for the band Astrocolor, one of the musical acts.

“So we consider this one hell of an achievement and we’re looking forward to bringing our music to the bridge.”

> For more stories about the old and new Johnson Street bridges, go to timescolonist.com/more

At noon Saturday, on the downtown side, the mayor will give opening remarks, the new bridge will be lowered into position and there will be a ribbon cutting followed by a pedestrian procession across the bridge.

Then, the two bridges will be flooded with people for a community picnic.

“There will be picnic tables and food trucks — people can bring their picnic or buy food from food trucks — and bands playing as well to keep us company for the four or five hours that we’re hanging out on the bridge as a community,” Helps said.

Celebrations will include performances by musicians and dancers. The lineup includes: high-energy Celtic band Cookeilidh at 12:30 p.m.; First Nation Lekwungen Dancers at 1:30; indie-soul quintet the New Souls at 2 p.m.; folk-rock roots band Dirty Mountain at 3 p.m.; and six-piece electronica act Astrocolor finishing off at 4 p.m.

“The past is the past and there’s nothing to do but boldly embrace our new future,” said Neil Cooke-Dallin, DJ and band leader of Astrocolor.

“I like the idea of shaking off some of the past bridge controversies and bringing in a new era,” Cooke-Dallin said of the many delays and cost overruns that plagued the new bridge.

“It makes me reflect on the history of the music we make in Astrocolor.

“Back in the day, some people wanted disco to die and others wanted it to go on.

“Either way, it led to the birth of house music, and we’re all better off and blessed that it all happened that way.”

Food trucks, a model T from 1924 — the old Johnson Street Bridge opened to the public on Jan. 11, 1924 — old Car No. 40 from the Victoria Police Department and a 1924 fire truck from the Victoria Fire Department Historical Society will be on display.

There will be activity stations to share memories of the old bridge and crafts for kids.

Both bridges and their pedestrian walkways will be open for activities until 5 p.m. Saturday. After that, the old bridge will be open for pedestrians and cyclists only.

The new bridge opens to all traffic at about 9 p.m. on Saturday.

Both bridges will be closed to all vehicle traffic from 7 a.m. today until about 9 p.m. Saturday, when the old Johnson Street Bridge will be closed to the public.

During the closure, motorists are being advised to use the Bay Street Bridge. B.C. Transit will be rerouted. Wharf and Store streets will remain open to vehicles.

Even though the new bridge opens on Saturday, additional work around it will continue, requiring periodic lane closures and detours until late summer.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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