Celebrate historic bridge this Saturday

Visitors will help celebrate the 102nd year of the Grays River covered bridge this Saturday. Over 1,000 people attended the 100th anniversary two years ago. (This file photo show the bridge and its surroundings as they appeared several years ago.)<I><BR>Observer photo</I>

GRAYS RIVER - The fourth annual Grays River Covered Bridge Celebration will open on Saturday, Aug. 4, at 9 a.m., with the Mark Linquist Memorial Walk and Run starting at the Covered Bridge just off State Route 4 near Grays River.

The highlight of the day long festival will be the dedication of the new "Ahlberg Park" at 11 a.m., at the site where the annual celebration is held each year. The Wahkiakum Community Foundation, sponsors of the event and the Covered Bridge Fund that gives local grants with income from the event, has received funding from the state of Washington to purchase the five-acre celebration site on the south end of the bridge. State Representatives Brian Blake and Dean Takko, as well as State Sen. Brian Hatfield, sponsored and supported the request for state funds.

Wahkiakum County owns and maintains the bridge itself. The Foundation will now own and maintain the five-acre site as a public park open for fishing, picnicking, resting and photographing the bridge itself. The new park is named in memory of the Ahlberg family, early settlers in the area who owned the site originally. Descendants of the family still own property on the north side of the bridge. Nationally recognized local author, Robert Michael (Bob) Pyle, will give a history of the family and the bridge during the park dedication. Having recently published a popular book on the area, "Sky Time in Grays River," Pyle is the ideal storyteller for this event. He and his wife, Thea, have lived in the historic Ahlberg home, just north of the bridge, for several decades.

The annual celebration has a true country fair atmosphere with children's games, food, music, vendors with crafts for sale, and dancing. Bands playing will include the Naselle School's Youth Marimba Band, Quick Release and the Retta Christie Trio. Raffle tickets will be sold for a covered bridge quilt, $500 cash, a John Deere bicycle and art by a popular local artist.

The bridge is a popular rest stop for motorcyclists, as well as other visitors. Several thousand visitors from all over the world sign the guest list inside the bridge. Listed on the National Historic Register and nestled in a pastoral farming valley, it's a peaceful sanctuary that draws locals and visitors alike to rest at the side of Grays River under large historic trees. Built in 1805, the bridge celebrated its 100th birthday in 2005 with over 1,000 visitors attending.

The celebration is always a time for fun, food and music. There is no cost to attend. For more information or directions to the area, contact Bonnie Linquist, event chair, at 360-465-2281 or e-mail her at (mblinquist@wwest.com). The Foundation can be reached at 360-465-2414.

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