‘Save Our Bridge’ activities highlight Sears Hill Bridge restoration efforts

“Love can build a bridge” says Winona Judd in her popular country song, but when it comes to replacing the century-old Sears Hill Bridge in Staunton, it’s going to take cold, hard cash.

The Staunton Downtown Development Association, in collaboration with the Friends of the Sears Hill Bridge and The Community Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge are launching a series of events in mid-2011 to help with the fundraising efforts to replace the popular historic landmark.

The historic Sears Hill Bridge that has provided a valuable pedestrian link between the Sears Hill neighborhood and Downtown Staunton for more than a century was condemned in January 2010. After months of conversation about restoration and who would foot the bill, the bridge was removed on Nov. 1 and stored until funds could be raised. Friends of the Sears Hill Bridge, a committee formed in December 2010 to raise money to restore the bridge, estimates the restoration will cost $200,000. They have raised $76,000 to date.

Bill Frazier of Frazier Associates was instrumental in connecting with the SDDA and commented that “the Friends of the Sears Hill Bridge could not be successful in raising the funds to restore the bridge without the support of community organizations like the SDDA. The SDDA staff has been very enthusiastic and incredibly creative in undertaking complementary projects and activities to support this important civic campaign. We are very grateful for their time and talents. It takes the entire community to save a bridge.”

The SDDA kicked off the campaign in late April by teaming up with a new area film production company, Flying Warthogs Film, to produce a short movie titled “It Takes More than Love to Build a Bridge.” The film will be used as the centerpiece of an awareness campaign and can be seen on the Downtown Staunton YouTube channel at youtu.be/_iJx65D19Y4.

SDDA Executive Director Julie Markowitz created the film story and concept over a year ago in anticipation of the bridge removal and fundraising efforts for its restoration.

“The Sears Hill Bridge is an important connector. Many of those residents depend on it to conveniently shop and work Downtown.” Markowitz added, “As a Main Street organization, the Staunton Downtown Development Association fully supports and encourages preservation efforts in the community. We are delighted to assist with an awareness campaign for The Friends or the Sears Hill Bridge. It was a pleasure to work with KT! Eaton, Phil Dixon and the talented actors and artists willing to volunteer their time for the film production.

“It’s always challenging to develop special projects without unlimited funding,” said Markowitz. “We could not have implemented the supporting events or the film without the generous contribution from Lingo Networks, our title sponsor. Lingo Networks will be the provider for the WiFi Downtown and is opening their offices at the former Shenandoah Trophies on Central Avenue. We are excited to have this new tech business Downtown, especially about the new services their business will provide.”

Film director KT! Eaton describes working with the SDDA.

“Flying Warthogs Film recently relocated our base of operations to Staunton, and I’m extremely appreciative of the support we’ve received from the Staunton Creative Community Fund and the Staunton Downtown Development Association. Partnering with the SDDA on this film has been a wonderful opportunity to meet and work with other Staunton artists and business owners.”

Meghan Williamson, executive director of the Staunton Creative Community Fund adds, “The Staunton Creative Community Fund was so excited to fund the launch of Flying Warthogs Film in Staunton. KT! Eaton exemplifies the types of entrepreneurs we love to work with – innovative, talented, ambitious, and yet closely tied to community partners and local projects. We are looking forward to the ‘Save the Bridge’ film, and to the many more we know are yet to come.”

The SDDA’s Save Our Bridge activities will include:

  • “Save Our Bridge” Video Contest. Contest May 2-June 3. Judging June 6 -17. Screening June 26. Participants will be encouraged to submit videos under 3 minutes that creatively describe “Why We Love the Sears Hill Bridge” using its historical, economic, community and environmental impact as themes.
  • “Bridges” Storefront Art Gallery. Installation June 12-23. Opening June 24. Running through July 29. Local artists and non-profits will be invited to create art displays in empty storefronts around downtown with “Bridges” as the theme. “Bridges” Storefront Art Gallery Opening Night. June 24, 6-9pm. The public will be invited to view the displays, “Meet the Artists” and enjoy street entertainment all around the downtown area. Donations will be accepted through the use of QR code technology and collection bins.
  • “Save Our Bridge” Video Screening Event. June 26, 9pm. A public viewing of a special film event and the top videos chosen from the “Save Our Bridge” contest will be held at the Visulite Cinema, 12 N. Augusta St. Accepting donations for the bridge fund at the door.Facebook Cause & QR Code Publicity. A Facebook Cause will be launched in conjunction with these events, integrating social networking into the fundraising effort. A QR code campaign targeted at harvesting potential donations in the preliminary stages of the campaign (posters, advertising, etc.), at the June 24 event and throughout July from the window art show will be integrated into all the promotional materials.

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