A long awaited event finally took place in our neighbourhood yesterday.
A pedestrian and cycling bridge crossing the Rideau River, connecting Sandy Hill and Vanier, had been under construction for two summers. We were all hoping for a fall opening, but as the weeks went by we resigned ourselves to using it next spring.
Then we learned that construction was complete and the official opening of the Adàwe Crossing would take place Friday, December 4 at 1:00 pm. Great – but not so great for us working folk eager to celebrate the new bridge.
I love neighbourhood gatherings and the conviviality they create. So, drawing on a family tradition of inviting friends and neighbours to carry lanterns into Strathcona Park on the night of the Winter Solstice, I decided to reroute that project to the evening of December 4th. I wanted to throw a wide net so that residents on both sides of the river would know that a celebration would be taking place in the dark… And I had six days to do it.
And that, of course, is where social media kicked in. We began by sending the message to several community email lists and our city councillor. Since Adàwe means “to trade” I suggested that everyone bring something to share – a snack, a drink, a song… A Vanier contact with connections to the music scene put me in touch with the head of the Vanier BIA. She got our invite too. After that, we hoped that social media would take over. And, not surprisingly it did.
A member of our community association posted the event on the community website. A biking activist I do not know tweeted that it was where « all the cool kids » would be. Safer Streets Ottawa got in touch with him, and he passed the contact on to me. And that resulted in a treasure trove of donated bike and pedestrian lights arriving on my doorstep. The Overbrook Community Association across the river posted on their website. Our councillor tweeted out the event.
Last night a few neighbours met us outside our house – lanterns and candles in hand. Our family was loaded down with thermoses of hot drinks, sparklers, matches, the aforementioned lights and tins of ginger snaps. We weren’t a big group, and I had no idea what to expect.
As we walked the few blocks to the bridge, we met neighbours with their lanterns and lights heading in the same direction. In the distance, we could see lights flashing on the bridge itself.
As we arrived, we saw that the social media promotion had been a great success. The new bridge was crowded with people from both sides of the river, with kids and dogs in tow, with snacks and drinks and other gifts to share. A bicycle was aglow with lights.
A parasol was trimmed with little bulbs. Someone gave me eucalyptus seeds from a distant land. An artist handed out cards depicting the Celtic Solstice Kings. A floating Chinese lantern drifted into the air.
The weather was gentle. People lingered and laughed. The black river rushed below us, and ducks quacked in the distant darkness.
Social media helped spread not just the where and what of the event, but also the spirit of it. We could each have made a first solitary visit to the bridge. Social media helped us do it as a community.