31st annual Bridgefest to kick off summer in Houghton County

HOUGHTON/HANCOCK — Since 1876, folks have been crossing the Portage Canal with a bridge that accommodates both land traffic, and mariners.

The first structure was a wooden swing bridge that operated for 25 years before it was replaced with a steel structure. In 1905, that was severely damaged when a ship ran into the center span, causing folks of the Keweenaw to cross the canal by ferries until a new span was built and installed.

The current crossing structure was built in 1959 and did away with the swing bridge design, replacing it with a center span that lowers to a height of 4 feet above the water level, and raises to 100 feet, allowing for large vessels to pass underneath. Nearly 60 years later, people of the Keweenaw are still celebrating.

“It’s like the official opening of summer to a lot of people. Friday night… it’s that tradition that they don’t want to give up, and I think it’s a good one,” said David Crowley, chairman of the Bridgefest parade.

The parade begins at it’s normally scheduled start time of 7:00 p.m., but just before that is a new activity.

“New this year for Bridgefest is the 5k road race run/walk in front of the Bridgefest parade. So you’d have a chance to run through downtown Hancock and Houghton on closed streets and run over the bridge,” said Ryan Towles, Bridgefest coordinator.

As the runners take to the streets, the procession will be just 5 minutes behind with a full line up of floats and marching bands.

“44 units plus 3 bands. 10 of the units have music,” said Crowley.

Along with entertainment on Friday night, Saturday contains a full day of music including Michigan native Joshua Davis as the headlining act. Davis is best known for his appearances on “The Voice” from 2015. He will be taking the stage at 9:00.

As well as some familiar favorites, the food line up will also have some new flavors.

“This year for food we’ve got the new Baby E’s Barbecue thats here in Houghton. We’ve got a fried bread vendor from Baraga that we had last year. We’ve got an elephant ear vendor, we’ve got a couple different vendors doing hot dogs and brats, nachos, sloppy joes. We have a new food truck in Houghton so we’ve got vegetarian options too, which is really good. There’s a lot of options. There should be something for everybody’s taste down there,” said Towles.

All activities including concerts are free and open to the public.

Towles said “You can come to Bridgefest and not spend a dime.”

To learn more about this weekend’s festivities, click HERE.