As the sun drops slowly from a cloud-scattered sky, the span known as the Green Bridge arches over the Manatee River to host a diverse sprinkling of runners, walkers and others enjoying the day.
The Green Bridge and its neighbor, the Green Bridge Pier, have bypassed use as a mere transportation device and become destinations in their own right. Speed walkers and runners, families and pets, the serious fitness enthusiasts and the laid-back fishermen companionably share the space.
A visitor may get a friendly wave or smile as they pass closely on the narrow walkway of the bridge, or stop to peruse the contents of a bait bucket as small children trundle past on bikes, and dogs of all sizes happily lead their owners.
Early Bradentonians celebrated the country’s independence in 1915 by barbecueing 5,000 mullet on the riverfront near the single-lane wooden toll bridge that was the present-day bridge’s earliest incarnation. Built in 1910, it was the first real bridge over the Manatee River.
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In 1919, another wooden bridge was built, the Victory Bridge, putting the first bridge out of business.
Fireworks are scheduled to illuminate the sky over the bridge named after E.P. Green, Sr, once-mayor of Bradenton, as people of the town continue the tradition of celebrating by the bridge.