Twenty minutes before the bridge anniversary ceremony started, the guest of honor vanished into the fog. Ten minutes before it started, the committee hustled to get more chairs unfolded. By the time the ceremony began, neither Lubec nor the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial Bridge was visible, and the crowd had swelled to standing room only -- the two big white tents were full.
The ceremony, 50 years after the original ribbon cutting, was held in the shadow of the Mulholland Point Lighthouse, right next to the Lubec Narrows, on August 5 at 2 p.m. Atlantic Time, and was hosted by the Roosevelt Campobello International Park Commission. It attracted a crowd of close to 200, including government officials from both sides of the border who had come for what Campobello Councillor Raymond Brown had quipped was the "celebration of the falling-down bridge."
Stephen Smart, mayor of the Rural Community of Campobello, was the first speaker. "The bridge has redefined our community," he said, speaking of how Lubec and Campobello are really one big village, and how that would not be the case if the bridge had not connected the two for the last half‑century, alluding to the number of family names that exist on both sides.
This point was again brought home by the second speaker, Lubec Select Board Chair William Daye, who spoke of the number of cross‑bridge romances that have led to marriages, soon to include that of his own son.
Following the opening comments, Hollie Weaver sang the national anthems of both the United States and Canada in a clear and powerful voice that belied her 11 years. Prior to the opening, Smart commented about Weaver, saying, "She fills a room, despite her [diminutive] stature."
New Brunswick Minister of Culture, Tourism and Healthy Living Trevor Holder was next up. He described the Lubec-Campobello community as "a place where two great democracies come together."
David Bernhardt, commissioner of the Maine Department of Transportation, may have said more than he intended when he stated, "I have heard something about replacement. Next year we will be evaluating what we need to do with the bridge." Bernhardt asked the question, "Who knew 50 years ago the bridge would become such a symbol of strength, character and camaraderie?"
Following the unveiling of new interpretive plaques by two young descendants of Franklin Roosevelt, Hays and Swiler Lindsley, Roosevelt Campobello International Park Commission Chair Christopher D. Roosevelt spoke. "This kind of weather," he said, gesturing to the swirling fog laced with birds, "was Eleanor Roosevelt's favorite." He went on to describe his grandfather's feelings about his second home. "This island is special, these narrows are special, Lubec is special, in some way this might have something to do with how Franklin Roosevelt saw this place."
Roosevelt described traveling to the area before the bridge was put in place, and asked for a show of hands from those who remembered the days when visiting Campobello required using a ferryboat. Seven hands went up.
The ceremony was concluded by the simultaneous casting of memorial wreaths on both sides of the Lubec Narrows, coordinated by the Lost Fishermen's Memorial Association. On the Lubec side Daisy Jo Jones tossed a wreath in memory of her father, Joseph Jones, lost in 2009 with the fishing vessel Bottom Basher. On the Campobello side the wreath was tossed by Braiden Gallagher, who lost his father, Wade Gallagher, in 2006 with the loss of the Braiden G. The crowd watched in silence as the wreath drifted into a pod of curious seals.
After the ceremony many in the crowd stayed behind to share the large birthday cake as well as memories of the bridge.