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Bridge Day is an annual one-day festival in Fayetteville, Fayette County, West Virginia, United States The event is coordinated by the New River Gorge Bridge Day Commission, and is sponsored by numerous companies of both local and international significance. The event, held on the third Saturday every October, commemorates the 1977 completion of the New River Gorge Bridge. On this day, all four lanes of the bridge are closed to automobiles and opened to pedestrians. Estimates have 100,000 people attending the overall event.
The first Bridge Day was held in 1980 and drew a crowd of roughly 40,000. It has been held every year since except for those years: 2001, when it was cancelled because of recent events of 9/11 and the possibility of terrorist attacks; it was also cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Bridge Day is the only day of the year people are allowed to BASE jump off the bridge into the New River Gorge 876 feet (267 meters) below, one of the few exceptions to a general ban on BASE jumping within the U.S. National Park System. People are also allowed to rappel from the span on Bridge Day. About four hundred BASE jumpers participate in each year's festival. In 2015 the BASE jumping community boycotted the event.
There have been three deaths and a wingsuit accident during Bridge Day involving BASE jumpers:
- In 1983, Michael Glenn Williams from Birmingham, Alabama, drowned when his gear was caught in the current after he made a successful jump. The one rescue boat that was in the river at the time was busy with other jumpers, and could not make it to him. In later years, more than one rescue boat was always used, and parachutists were not allowed to jump until it was confirmed that one of the rescue boats was available.[unreliable source?]
- In 1987, Steven Gyrsting of Paoli, Pennsylvania, jumped using gear that was not BASE-specific gear and was killed after he was unable to open his reserve chute in time when his main chute failed to deploy.
- During the 2006 festival, Brian Lee Schubert died when he failed to deploy his parachute in time. In 1966, he had been one of the first to BASE jump from El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.
- In 2011, Christopher Brewer of Pensacola, Florida, jumped wearing a wingsuit and survived after failing to open his parachute in time. He was fully conscious and paralyzed after landing in the New River, 876 feet below.
Rappelling off the bottom of the bridge has been part of the Bridge Day festivities since 1981.
The first confirmed bungee jumper was stunt performer Skip Stanley also known as "Blue Bandit" who leapt from the bridge during the 1985 Bridge Day. In 1992, New Zealander Chris Allum, bungee jumped 823 ft (251m) from the bridge to set a world's record for the longest bungee jump from a fixed structure, stopping about 40 feet above the river. Also in 1992 a GMC Jimmy SUV was dropped on a bungee for a commercial. In 1993, Chris Allum bungee with six friends in a basket setting a world record for most people in a single bungee jump. However considerable amount of time required for a bungee jumpers to be reel back up, in which time BASE jumpers are not allowed to jump, prompted the banning of bungee jumping at Bridge Day since 1994.
- Green, Diana Kyle (October 2011). "Fayette County High". Wonderful West Virginia: 4–7.
- "Archived Document". Archived from the original on 2012-10-14. Retrieved 2012-10-01."Official Bridge Day website sponsorship page, ret. 2012-10-01
- Sullivan 82
- "BASE" is an acronym that stands for four categories of fixed objects from which one can jump: buildings, antennas, spans (bridges), and earth (cliffs).
- Complete Bridge Day History
- BASE Jumping Fatality List Archived August 31, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
- "Thousands watch as parachute fails during W.Va. Bridge Day event" Associated Press Newswires, 21 October 2006 19:15
- "BASE jumper killed during Bridge Day festival". Associated Press. 21 October 2006. Retrieved 2012-12-04.
- "Death-Defying BASE Jumper, Christopher Brewer, Survives 900 Foot Fall (VIDEO)" Huffpost, 20 October 2011 04:25
- "Death-Defying BASE Jumper, Christopher Brewer, Survives 900 Foot Fall (VIDEO)". Huffpost. 20 October 2011. Retrieved 2022-03-06.
- Young, Jay (Fall 2020). "A Brief History of Bungee". Highland Outdoors.
- "GMC Truck Bungee Jumping". YouTube. Archived from the original on 2021-12-19. Retrieved 17 April 2021.
Sullivan, Ken, ed. West Virginia Encyclopedia. West Virginia Humanities Council: Charleston, West Virginia, 2006.
- New River Gorge Bridge Day
- Bridge Day Information and History Archived 2012-01-17 at the Wayback Machine
- Bridge Day Rappel
- Bridge Walk - Great Walking Tour Under Bridge