Big push for ‘Day on the Bridge’

Ex­clu­sive din­ner, events on McQuesten High Level Bridge to help pur­chase EcoPark lands

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - AN­DREW DRESCHEL An­drew Dreschel’s com­men­tary ap­pears Mon­day, Wed­nes­day and Fri­day. adreschel@thes­pec.com 905-526-3495 @An­drewDreschel

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.

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