Tens of thousands of people got some great exercise Saturday on the Veterans Memorial Bridge between Columbia and Wrightsville, where cars and trucks were replaced for the day by food, craft and novelty vendors.
The 1.25-mile Route 462 bridge was closed to traffic for the 30th annual Bridge Bust, which featured nearly 250 vendors, who set up along the entire length of the span.
“People like being able to look out over the bridge without feeling like they’re going to be run over,” said Beverly Shank, executive director of the Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce, which organized the event.
“They have exercise, and it’s something they can bring their family to at a low cost, and they start their Christmas shopping,” she said.
The Bridge Bust is the largest fundraiser for the Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce, which collects a small admission fee and charges for vendor space.
While the final admission and sales numbers weren’t finalized Saturday, Shank said there were probably more attendees than last year, when some 25,000 came out. She said the overcast skies and high temperatures in the low 70s boosted attendance.
Columbia Mayor Leo Lutz agreed.
“I’ve been out here in wind and rain, and I’ve been out here in boiling sun, and today is perfect weather for being out here,” Lutz said.
At the Bridge Bust, vendor tables formed a nearly continuous line from Lancaster to York counties, including ones selling books, dolls, antiques, hats, clothing, soap and handbags, among other things.
Food items included funnel cakes, cheesesteaks, hamburgers and thinly sliced “butterfly” potatoes. Food served on a stick included bacon, chicken and candy apples.
Although there was a lot of eating, everyone at least got some exercise.
Many people walked from one end to the other and then back again, although there were also shuttle buses for those who didn’t want to do the round trip on foot.
“What we found is a lot of people will just come through, look at everything, walk all the way to the end, and then turn around and shop their way back to the end they started at,” said Kevin Mather, Cubmaster for Cub Scout Pack 57 in Manchester, who was overseeing popcorn sales near the Wrightsville side of the bridge.
Starting from the Columbia side, Carol Markle, of West Hempfield, didn’t get anywhere near the troop’s popcorn stand, saying she was too tired to venture far from the Lancaster shore.
But Markle covered enough distance find an early Christmas gift as well as a bottle of homemade root beer.
“I think there’s a lot of talented craft people here, and I’m glad I came over to the event,” she said. “I was tired this morning, but I came over anyway because there might be some interesting things.”