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Great River Bridge opening: Construction ends with community party

Date: 6/26/2012

June 27, 2012

By Debbie Gardner

WESTFIELD — For State Rep. Donald Humason Jr., the June 29 grand opening of the Great River Bridge is the culmination of one of his first projects as a legislator.

"My first piece of legislation for Westfield was to get a bill passed and signed by [then] Gov. [Mitt] Romney to get the three little parks [at the site] given back to the state, so they could build the bridge and give them back to [Westfield]," Humason told Reminder Publications.

That act, signed by Romney in December 2003 paved the way for the nearly $80 million renovation and reconstruction project, which has taken five years to complete.

"I hope that the motorists, the community, the residents and the businesses will enjoy the new bridge and the parks that come with it," Humason continued. "It's a new gateway into our city."

With that gateway come a beautiful outdoor venue, which Humason said would be put to good use on the 29th with food, a vendor showcase, music, and what he promised would be a short dedication program scheduled to include remarks by Gov. Deval Patrick and state and local officials.

That dedication is also slated to include performances by Katherine Kailli and the Westfield State University (WSU) Faculty Jazz Quartet as well as cake, compliments of Gilte Phyls.

"We're going to start that portion at 2:30 p.m. [and] we want to keep it to an hour," Humason said. "[State Sen.] Mike Knapik is going to be the MC and he said he would be keeping the speakers [on schedule] to give people plenty of time to look at the vendors and enjoy the parks."

The grand opening festivities will actually begin at noon, Humason noted, with a hot dog social hosted by Dan Puza, owner of the North Elm Butcher Block. As lunchtime treat, Puza will be cooking up free hot dogs for attendees in his North Elm Street parking lot. From noon to 2 p.m., he will also be selling pulled pork and corned beef sandwiches to the lunch crowd. His neighbor, Nick Theodorakis, owner of Elm Pizza, will be selling pizza and beer during the same time period.

From noon until 6:30 p.m. Humason said a number of Elm Street area merchants would also be taking part in a vendor showcase, located in the north side bridge parking lot.

"Those were the vendors most hurt during construction, [places like] the Butcher Block and Pilgrim Candle," he said. "Now that [the bridge] is done, these are the vendors we've invited to show their wares."

Among the Merchant Marketplace participants listed on the city's website at (click on Great River Bridge Celebration on top right) are Great River Bridge neighbors Soup's On, Mayflowers and Mama Cakes.

"There will be lots of other vendors from downtown Westfield out there as well," Humason noted. In addition, Amelia Park Children's Museum, Noble Hospital, WSU, the Food Pantry and Friends of the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail will also have tables at the event, and individuals are asked to bring a canned good to help "build a bridge" between the Pantry and Children's Museum tables.

From 3:30 to 6:30 p.m., attendees will also be treated to a special performance of the Boot Hill Band on the North Side Bridge.

"After the bridge dedication, the party will move downtown to the Elm Street corridor with an open house," Humason said. "Businesses have agreed to stay open with special sales and give people a chance to come downtown and enjoy."

The Westfield Business Improvement District will be hosting a downtown Scavenger Hunt from 4 to 7 p.m. (cards available from participating merchants) and many downtown restaurants will be offering specials that evening.

"This is sort of the renaissance of our city, the Green project downtown and the bridge project on the north side," Humason said. "We're starting to see the public investment pay off [with] private dollars from people who want to come in and open businesses.

He added, "They see the time and money we've invested [in Westfield]."

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