LAKE HAVASU CITY, Ariz. (AP) — Lake Havasu City is playing up its roots with a month of celebratory events marking the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the London Bridge after its piece-by-piece rebuild in the western Arizona resort town along the Colorado River.
Scheduled October events include a parade, powerboat racing, theater and musical performances, a costume contest and sports competitions.
Lake Havasu City founder Robert McCulloch bought the stone bridge in 1968 for approximately $2 million and had it transported by ship and truck from London in pieces across the Atlantic Ocean and via the Panama Canal and Los Angeles. That process and reconstruction took three years, leading to the October 1971 dedication.
The city of London had decided to replace the bridge because it was sinking and unfit to withstand increased automobile traffic.
In Lake Havasu City, which has population of about 57,000, the bridge spanning a channel between the shoreline and an island in the river has become a major tourist attraction.
“New York has its Empire State Building, St. Louis its Gateway Arch, and L.A. its Hollywood sign. There’s only one London Bridge in the world outside of England, and we’ve got it here thanks to the foresight of our founding fathers some 50 years ago,” said Terence Concannon, president and CEO of Go Lake Havasu, the city's convention and visitors bureau.
Following a Friday ribbon-cutting, the 50th anniversary celebratory events get underway in earnest this weekend with a candlelit feast and ball Saturday evening, followed by a Sunday morning garden brunch and tea leading into a costume contest, the Today's News Herald reported.
The idea for the feast came from the dedication of the London Bridge in Lake Havasu City in 1971, which also featured a large tent decorated for a formal dedication dinner, said Melanie Preston of a Lake Havasu City nonprofit that organizes the London Bridge Renaissance Faire annually.
The dedication dinner 50 years ago was itself inspired by the bridge’s original dedication in 1831 in the city that gave the bridge its name.
“It’s going to be banquet style with rows of tables, candles, flowers, banners, and all of that,” Preston said.
Lake Havasu Museum of History Director Hannah Rangel said the feast will be an interactive experience for the guests and include modeling of some of the costumes that made their debut in the original costume contests in the ’70s, and have since been donated to the museum’s collection.
“Some of the dresses that they made in the previous costume contests are just gorgeous," Rangel said. “So we will talk about those and give some history. We are putting a large emphasis to make sure that the history is correctly represented for the city.”