Hamilton neighbors to congregate for unique picnic on High/Main bridge

There’s going to be a party Sunday across Hamilton’s High/Main Bridge, with residents of all 17 neighborhoods invited to eat, meet people from other parts of the city and take what someday will become a historic photo of the gathering above the Great Miami River.

“The goal is basically to use the bridge and the river as a connector, rather than a divider in the city,” said Joanne Wallisch, chairwoman of the event put on by Hamilton’s 17Strong effort, which is named for the number of city neighborhoods, that is working to strengthen all parts of the city and better link the neighborhoods with each other and city government.

The event will take place from 4 to 7 p.m. Organizers hope everybody who attends will be there at 5:30 p.m., when photographs are taken of the gathering.

“We want many, many p0eople on the bridge at 5:30,” said said Karen Wittmer, Hamilton’s program coordinator for volunteers. There’s no need to RSVP, she said: People can just show up.

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The two northernmost traffic lanes will be closed to traffic, with 43 tables set up with 272 chairs. Rather than sitting with friends or people from their own neighborhoods, residents are asked to “sit with people that they don’t know,” Wallisch said. “Research has shown that when people break bread together, barriers are broken down.”

“Five years ago, I suggested that we maybe do something on the bridge,” Wallisch said. “And then we talked about possibly doing something on the Courthouse lawn, and I really just kept pushing for the bridge, because I believe it’s a symbolic structure to bring the city together.”

Food trucks — Food Fellas, Neal’s Famous BBQ, Kona Ice and Flub’s ice cream — will provide things to eat, but partiers also are welcome to bring their own food.

“We didn’t want anyone to feel that they couldn’t afford to attend, so people are welcome to bring a picnic,” Wallisch said.

In another gesture of cross-river cooperation, Quarter Barrel Brewery and Pub, located immediately west of the bridge at 103 Main St., and Municipal Brew Works, just east of the span at 20 High St., will create a special brew for the event, to be called The Bridge.

Music will be played on both ends of the bridge, and the city’s welcome center will be open, Wittmer said.

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Private and public elementary schools in the city have been making banners, which will be displayed in the park just west of the bridge at Main and North B streets. Football players wearing their jerseys from Hamilton High School and the city’s middle schools will help set up and take down the tables for the event.

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Here are times for entertainment:

  • 4 to 4:30 p.m.: Miami Valley Ballet Theatre will perform.
  • 4:30 to 5 p.m.: Alex Singleton and Jason Jones from Artspace Hamilton lofts will play music.
  • 5 to 5:30 p.m.: Todd Quincy plays music.
  • 5:30 p.m.: photos will be shot of the gathering, using a drone and from the city's former municipal building just east of the bridge.
  • 6 to 6:30 p.m.: Singleton and Jones perform again.

“I’m most of all praying for good weather that day,” Wallisch said. “As long as it doesn’t rain, I think it will be a new and a different event for Hamilton.”

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