‘Raising the roof’ at the West Seventh Street bridge

11/12/2013 4:11 PM

11/12/2013 4:33 PM

The new West Seventh Street bridge is shutting down one more time — not for old time’s sake, but instead to host a couple of parties.

The new bridge connecting downtown Fort Worth to the cultural district will be closed to traffic beginning at 9 p.m. Thursday. The closure is expected to last until early afternoon Saturday.

The closure is needed to prepare for a weekend of festivities marking the substantial completion of the $26 million bridge, which unofficially opened to traffic Oct. 9 after being shut down for about four months.

Several hundred people are expected to attend a party Friday night thrown by the non-profit group Streams & Valleys. The festivities require guests to buy a $77 ticket — which will still be on sale at the event — and will include a massive feast from area celebrity chefs, as well as dancing, fireworks and costumes ranging from early 20th century garb to nightclub chic.

The Friday night event will be followed by a parade across the bridge Saturday morning. The parade requires no tickets and the public is encouraged to attend.

“It’s just going to be an extraordinary chance to have a party in a beautiful place,” said Stacey Pierce, Streams & Valleys executive director. “It’s so different to walk across it, rather than drive it.”

The original, 100-year-old bridge — which failed numerous state inspections and was decaying to the point of becoming a safety hazard — was demolished in June. Motorists endured months of traffic headaches, using detours such as West Lancaster Avenue to travel between downtown Fort Worth and the city’s thriving cultural district.

The Friday events begin with a 77-minute-long VIP reception at 5:43 p.m. at the top of the bridge. At 6:07 p.m., Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price will throw a switch turning on the bridge’s recessed lighting.

A fireworks finale and champagne toast is scheduled for 10:07 p.m. Friday.

In between, an estimated 300 or more guests will dance to Johnny Reno’s horn-powered Texas blues music. They will also chomp on food prepared by chefs such as Jon Bonnell of Bonnells Texas and Waters, Juan Rodriguez of Reata and Blaine Staniford of GRACE and Little Red Wasp.

Tables, 10 food stations and eight bars will be set up on the crest of the bridge, Pierce said.

Proceeds from the party will benefit Streams & Valleys, a group that supports conservation and public use of the Trinity River.

Guests will be encouraged to dress in early 20th century garb, or nightclub chic, although attendees should also consider dressing comfortably for the outdoors, spokeswoman Julie Hatch Fairley said.

The temperature is expected to be in the lower 60s Friday afternoon, but falling to the lower 50s in the evening with a 40 percent chance of showers, according to the National Weather Service. On Saturday, the daytime forecast is for cloudy skies and a high in the upper 60s.

The Saturday parade will feature the Fort Worth cattle herd, classic cars and bicycles. It will take place at 10:30 a.m. beginning on the bridge’s west side.

Although the new West Seventh Street bridge opened to traffic more than a month ago, workers are still doing minor construction tasks, and will likely remain on site for several more weeks, said Texas Department of Transportation spokesman Val Lopez.

The state agency designed and built the bridge, Lopez said, although the structure is actually city property and the decision to close it was made by officials from the city and Streams & Valleys.

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