Thermopolis Independent Record - Your source for news in Hot Springs County

By April S. Kelley
Reporter & Photographer 

Centennial Celebration July 4 in Hot Springs State Park


At 6 p.m. on Monday, July 4 at the Kiwanis Shelter in Hot Springs State Park, the Centennial Celebration for the Swinging Bridge and the Bison will begin. The bridge is enjoyed by thousands of visitors each year.

The 2016 Fourth of July celebrations in Hot Springs County are certain to be bigger and better than ever this year. Not only will there be the usual Fourth of July Fireworks Celebration, but Hot Springs State Park will also be celebrating the Centennial Celebration for both the Swinging Bridge and the Bison.

At 6 p.m. on Monday, July 4 at the Kiwanis Shelter in Hot Springs State Park, the Centennial Celebration for the Swinging Bridge and the Bison will begin.

"We're going to have food, beverages and snow cones provided by 4-H, the Robotics Team and the Spanish Club from the high school," Hot Springs State Park Superintendent Kevin Skates said. "Shorty's will have their beverage wagon there and we're going to have live music. This way people can come and eat and listen to music while they're waiting for the celebration and the fireworks to start."

Skates said at 8 p.m., there will be some short presentations from the Pioneer Association and the Historic Society.

"They have put together a little program about the history of the Swinging Bridge," Skates said. "They've researched and put together a DVD that will play throughout the event. The history of the bison who are also 100 years old will be discussed."

After the presentations, at around 10 p.m., there will be the lighting of the bridge followed by a two-minute firework display on the Swinging Bridge.

"We encourage people to get down by the river," Skates said. "That will be the best place to view the events on the Swinging Bridge. We also encourage people to bring lawn chairs and blankets. There will be some picnic tables, but likely not enough to accommodate everyone."

Hot Springs State Park Assistant Superintendent John Fish said the towers of the bridge will be lit up with strobe lights and the fireworks display from the bridge will create a waterfall effect.

Local historian Dorothy Milek explained that the Swinging Bridge was built in 1916 in Hot Springs State Park. In 1984, one of the boards on the chains was broken or dysfunctional and the bridge was temporarily closed to traffic. It was determined the bridge needed to be replaced in 1991, so the process of tearing the bridge down began. The rebuilding of the bridge was finished in 1992. The North Dakota National Guard spent two summers building it, and were very appreciative of the community for all of their fundraising efforts to make it possible.

Milek said the Pioneer Association started a drive to earn money to rebuild the bridge, and the community held many fundraising efforts, including auctioning off pieces of the old bridge.

Pioneer Association President Ray Shaffer said the new bridge was built a lot better than the older bridge.

"It was a good community project," Shaffer said. "There was a lot of help from the community too - a lot of fundraising. It cost about $200,000 to make the bridge right again. It was an incredible task."

A book on the historic Swinging Bridge is in the works with help from Milek, Shaffer, Bonnie Bauer, Charlyne White, Doris Ann Ready, Carol Barham and Terry TenBoer. The book will not be available until a few months after the ceremony. The Hot Springs County Museum and the Wyoming Historical Society have also been helpful in the celebration and with the book, Milek said.

"It's [the bridge] been quite an icon for the community and it will continue to be," Shaffer said. "I think the public will really enjoy it [the celebration]."

Skates said the Centennial Celebration was only possible through the help of the Fire Department, the Kiwanis Club, the Historic Society and the Pioneer Association.

Fish said at about 10:15 p.m. the Fourth of July Fireworks from T-Hill will begin. This year $11,000 was spent on the fireworks.

"I want it as dark as possible so that people can appreciate the magnitude of the fireworks," Fish said. "It will be longer and better than we have ever seen in this town. It will be a large, fantastic show."

Fish also encouraged firework safety during the holiday.

"As dry as it is, we highly encourage everybody that is going to shoot their fireworks off, to do it safely and in the designated area on the night of the Fourth," he said. "That's the only time it will be allowed in city limits and in Hot Springs State Park. It's hot and dry and the land is primed and ready for wild land fires. We encourage everybody to be as careful as they possibly can."

This year's firework celebration was funded by donations from area businesses, citizens and organizations.


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