FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. — The Mountain State’s largest single-day festival is returning for its 39th year.
Bridge Day returns to Fayette County this Saturday, as thousands of spectators will convene at the New River Gorge to watch base jumpers across the country make their leap off the New River Gorge Bridge. According to Bridge Day’s official website, nearly 100,000 people watched over 300 jumpers last year.
Mandy Wriston of the Fayette County Convention and Visitors Bureau says those looking for a spot at the bottom of the gorge must be prepared for a steep walk.
“It’s a bit of a hike,” Wriston said. “So if you’re going to try to walk down and back up, just remember it’s straight down and straight back up, so make sure you’re fit and wear nice shoes.”
Bridge Day started as a very simple concept, individuals looking for a thrill by jumping off the New River Gorge Bridge.
This evolved into annual event held on the third day of October, eventually growing into one of the very few sanctioned base jumps in the United States. Now, hundreds of jumpers from over 33 states travel to Fayette County to make the 876 foot drop in one of the state’s most unique sporting events.
Wriston says this event has grown gradually over its near four decades of existence.
“It’s just kind of grown gradually over the years,” she said. “They just kept adding and adding and adding, and then of course with the power of social media and with marketing and PR, they’re able to get the word out to more and more people.”
Now in its 39th year, Bridge Day has been host to a variety of activities.
This year, over 130 vendors statewide will be on both sides of the New River Gorge Bridge and will have various local food available along with local artists and performers who will be showcasing their skills throughout the day. Among them, will be the maker of the documentary “Iron Men of the Gorge,” a film showcasing the labors of the men who made the New River Gorge bridge.
“He’s going to have a few of those iron workers at his booth,” she said. “So if you want to get first hand stories about what it was like to work on the bridge and build the bridge, this is the year to do it.”
For those who still want to experience the thrill but don’t have experience, this year’s festival has a new added activity — a high-line. For those not familiar with high-lines, Wriston explains that the concept is very similar to a zip-line.
“So a zip-line goes, say from tree to tree, for lack of a better explanation right now, but a high-line goes from a base, down to another base, so it’s at an angle,” she said.
While not as extreme as a base jump off the New River Gorge, the high-line has reserved spots that will go fast once the word spreads.
Jumpers will be take their leaps off the New River Gorge Bridge from 9 a.m until 3 p.m. Festivities will continue until 11 p.m.