By Katharine Morgan CONTRIBUTING WRITER
---- — Friends of Glimmerglass State Park and the New York State Covered Bridge Society co-hosted the Christmas first lighting of the Hyde Hall Covered Bridge at the Glimmerglass State Park on Dec. 6, in conjunction with the fifth annual Festival of Trees.
The decision to decorate the bridge after almost 188 years was “in the cards.” Christmas cards, that is.
According to Trish Kane, resident of Sherburne, and long time member of the NYS Covered Bridge Society, “My husband Bob and I have always sent out pictures of covered bridges for our Christmas cards. I have three criteria: covered bridge, snow and lights.”
Built in 1825, and considered our country’s oldest covered bridge, Hyde Hall Bridge had never been lit, but Kane had an inspired plan. “We went to talk to Karen Sheckells and her husband, Rich Sheckells, Chairman of the Friends of Glimmerglass, and Park Supervisor, respectively to discuss the possibility,” she said.
Rich decided he could supply the generator and lights while Karen worked hard to include the momentous occasion as the kick-off for the Festival of Trees Celebration. It all came together Friday night, giving everyone in attendance the thrill of seeing a spectacularly lit-up bridge, inside and out, and the excitement of participating in the beginning of the holiday’s newest annual ritual.
Despite bad weather forecasts, Kane welcomed a crowd close to 50 people in the park’s Lake View Room in the park. The night offered refreshments and music performed by the Four of Hearts Quartet. “We won’t let a little rain or snow dampen our spirits, nothing can stop us from such an historic event,” she said.
Kane spoke further, acknowledging the bridge was lit ahead of schedule, and that Donna Freeland, President of the NYS Covered Bridge Society, had to leave before the reception began due to the inclement conditions, but summarized, “nonetheless, it’s exciting for everyone here to be a part of it.”
Sheckells spoke next, commenting on the beauty of the trees around the room and thanking all the sponsors, donors, volunteers and park staff for their contribution to the Annual Festival of Trees. After telling the group of “a wagon ride after the ceremony down to the covered bridge,” Sheckells ended with, “please come and see us this winter.”
Bill Elsey, supervisor for the town of Springfield, took the podium as well. “This is an historical night for Springfield. When Trish called me, I told her I didn’t want to miss it, but I didn’t know much about the bridge. Trish told me by this time I would have all the information, so, I probably sound like an expert but believe me, I’m not,” he said.
Elsey gave a brief history of the bridge, explaining that it was built by Cyrenus Clark, Andrew Alden and Lorenzo Bates, crosses the Shadow Brook and though originally used for transport, today it is used only as a footbridge. Mentioning Hyde Hall was celebrated as the oldest standing covered bridge on Dec. 9, 2006, Elsey remarked it was an honor for the town to be home to such a national treasure.
Closing out the speakers, Kane took the mike again on Freeland’s behalf, pointing out that covered bridges are, “a picturesque reminder of times past, a link to a simpler life of family farms and small communities.” Because of the hard work of the NYS Covered Bridge Society, there is increased focus on preserving these American treasures. Kane concluded her speech lightheartedly.
Thanking everyone involved, she explained the reason there would be no words from Park Supervisor Sheckells. Upon completion of decorating the bridge from the road side, as planned, Kane begged Sheckells to do the other side as well. Kane laughs, “His condition? He would not have to speak at this event,” she said.
Kane also thanked her husband Bob. Their mutual passion for covered bridges started by chance on their 25th wedding anniversary, prompted by a paper place mat in a small diner describing local covered bridges in Vermont. Now, they have their Christmas card, everyone else has a lit bridge
The lights will be on Fridays through Sundays from 4:30 to 8:00 p.m. until Christmas. A detailed replica Hyde Hall Covered Bridge Christmas ornament is for sale for $10. Call 547-8662 or go to firstname.lastname@example.org for purchase details.