Big push for ‘Day on the Bridge’
Exclusive dinner, events on McQuesten High Level Bridge to help purchase EcoPark lands
One of the vacant niches in the massive stone pillars that frame the four corners of the McQuesten High Level Bridge is at last going to be filled.
No, after 85 years of standing empty, city council hasn’t finally decided to honour a famous Hamiltonian with a statue.
The niche is going to be occupied, at least temporarily, by any Jane or Joe who chooses to safely climb into it to have their photo taken as part of the hugely ambitious “Day on the Bridge” fundraiser.
“This will enable every Hamiltonian to be the most famous Hamiltonian,” jokes executive Patrick Bermingham, the driving force and financial backer of the event.
That photo-op may be the kitschiest element of the fundraiser — billed as a once-ina-lifetime event — which hopes to raise $1 million to purchase land for the Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark.
The idea is to close the stately McQuesten bridge on York Boulevard to vehicle traffic for a day and throw a community party on the roughly one-kilometre stretch between Dundurn Castle and the Royal Botanical Gardens’ rock garden.
The June 11 charity event is now only one month away and, according to Bermingham, the “big push” is on to round up sponsors, donors and diners.
Planned public activities include music and dance performances, an art exhibit by local artists, picnicking, wine and beer tents, food trucks, the unveiling of a commissioned nature documentary and, of course, traffic-free viewing of Cootes Paradise and Hamilton Harbour.
For me, the only sour note remains the gala fundraising dinner, which will be held from 5 to 10 p.m. for up to 800 people. Tickets for the dinner are a pricey $365 each or $700 for two. When the idea was first pitched to council, the organizers pegged tickets at $300 each. That was already too high for average Hamiltonians to partake. The increase certainly hasn’t improved the optics of closing a public road and bridge so fat cats can dine in each other’s exclusive company amid the splendour of a natural setting.
Still, Bermingham says he’s had no pushback and notes that at least $150 from each ticket will go to the EcoPark.
He also notes the bridge, which spans the Desjardins Canal, will be open to the general public and food trucks throughout the event, so nobody will be excluded from enjoying the unique experience.
To his credit, Bermingham also plans to give away at least 50 dinner tickets, probably through a radio lottery. Equally to his credit, he’s putting his money where his vision is. Bermingham is personally underwriting the cost of organizing the event because he believes so strongly in the conservationist cause.
“The whole purpose of this is to raise awareness of the Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark, which very few people know about.”
EcoPark is a partnership between local governments and nonprofit organizations in the Hamilton-Burlington area which strives to protect and connect thousands of hectares of natural lands, considered some of the most richly biodiverse in Canada.
Bermingham is the former CEO of the family firm Bermingham Foundations Solutions. The company is now a subsidiary of a French firm for which Bermingham works as a business development executive.
The gala dinner is only part of the fundraiser. Bermingham is also tapping local corporations and companies for sponsorships and donations.
He declines to reveal exactly how much of the $1 million has been raised, but says they’re roughly a quarter of the way there.
“But I’m only just starting to actually go and meet people to give donations.”
With the event just a month away, that may seem like a big hill to climb in a short time. But Bermingham doesn’t sound the least daunted.
“I’m very good under pressure. The more pressure, the better I perform. So, got lots to do, and the pressure helps get it done.”
To help with a sponsorship, call 647-9209995. For dinner tickets go to adayonthebridge.ca.