Sault Ste. Marie, ON / Sault Ste. Marie , MI – Similar to the tragedy of 9/11, the current COVID-19 crisis has impacted many community events, with organizers forced to implement radically different agendas, downsize participation, postpone, or in many cases, cancel events altogether.
“The Sault Michigan Chamber of Commerce is pleased to partner with our Sault Canada Chamber friends and the team at the International Bridge to produce a Virtual Bridge Walk video for 2020,” says Tony Haller, Executive Director of the Sault Ste. Marie Michigan Chamber of Commerce. “Our communities have always been supportive of each other and it’s fitting that we are releasing this video on the 19th anniversary of 9/11. Through that tragedy, and again today as we deal with COVID-19, it’s important to recognize the friendship that our two communities enjoy. We share a border as well as a unique bond and we have always been able to count on each other for support through rough times. This video exemplifies the resilience of our communities through the 19th anniversary of 9/11 and the current pandemic, as well as what the 34th anniversary of the International Bridge Walk represents today and historically.”
The Sault Ste. Marie Ontario and Sault Ste. Marie Michigan Chambers of Commerce, and their partner organizing agencies, were forced to confront the realities of COVID-19 earlier this year as they began discussions on the 34th annual International Bridge Walk & Bicycle Parade which was scheduled to be held earlier in the summer. Several factors including participant safety, transportation concerns, and ultimately the closure of the Canada / United States border to non-essential travel, resulted in the decision being made to cancel the event for 2020.
“The International Bridge Walk & Bicycle Parade is a widely anticipated event,” says Rory Ring, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce in Sault, Ontario. “Each year, we see around 2,000 participants. The participants are made up of people from the twin Saults but we also regularly talk to walkers who have traveled from around Canada and the United States, not only to walk across this amazing structure that spans the St. Mary’s River, but to also take part in a truly international event.”
Almost immediately following the cancellation of the 2020 Bridge Walk, organizers began to discuss options that would allow the people of the two Saults, as well as past (and future) Bridge Walk participants to share in a virtual event that would showcase the friendship and histories of the two communities joined by the International Bridge. The decision was made to host a virtual Bridge Walk which would symbolically recreate the meeting of Canadian and American delegations at the centre point of the Bridge during its’ 1963 dedication.
COVID-19 safety precautions meant that the contingents from each side would be limited and that safety precautions would have to be met. Delegations consisted of elected officials, Chamber of Commerce directors, members of First Nations and Indigenous Peoples, as well as representatives of our front line health care and emergency services who have played a significant role in leading us through the current pandemic.
The Sault Ste. Marie Ontario and Michigan Chambers of Commerce, along with the staff and management of the International Bridge, wish to thank the United States Department of Homeland Security, the Canada Border Services Agency, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and Algoma Public Health for their assistance and guidance in helping get approval for the event and for helping with safety guidelines for participants.
The Chambers and the International Bridge would also like to thank the Michigan Department of Transportation for their assistance with scripting and archival materials as well as Saultonline.com and ONNtv for video production and editing.
We also thank all front line personnel who have worked diligently throughout the COVID-19 crisis to ensure everyone’s safety.