THE BRIDGE DAY SIDESHOWS - "Narrow Is The Way," Recalling "Five Dollar Frank"


About 400 jumpers created excitement for 2008 Bridge Day crowd

By Bob Weaver 2008

Over 150,000 came to Bridge Day 2008 last weekend, with thousands of motorbike riders making their annual pilgrimage.

Not only West Virginians enjoy the day, tens of thousands come from all over the USA and several foreign countries.

Over 400 jumpers created a stir with spectators from their vantage point on the New River Gorge Bridge, while a few thousand traveled to the deep canyon to get a down-side view.

Perhaps the real attraction is people, many who deck themselves in indescribable costumes and hats, some carrying strange artifacts and posters expounding unknown causes.

Approaching the action on the bridge can be quite a trek from one's parked car. This year, traveling south from Summersville on the 4-lane, the first available parking space was about three miles from the bridge.

It was like walking from Mt. Zion's EMS station to Grantsville. A few lucky souls paid $2 to hitch a ride on a school bus. I was not lucky.

Within a half-mile of the bridge was a street preacher, shouting the gospel, reminding thousands of attendees that the "path is narrow."

Others distributed political tracts, with a simply-dressed woman kindly handing out a pamphlet confirming that presidential candidate Barrack Obama is "a Muslin terrorist in disguise, the anti-Christ."

After many years of attendance, it still seems unwise (maybe unsafe)for parents to try and push their baby carriages with tiny infants through elbowing wall-to-wall people. Hundreds do.

Returning to Bridge Day one more time adds to the memories of those gone by, spending time with Bob Denver of Gilligan's Island and other celebs who have attended the event.

Denver, when asked about his famous performance on the longtime sit-com, said "They screwed me royally," meaning his contract was absent of residuals.

Governor Joe Manchin was enthralled with the event, ordering jumping to continue for one extra hour. Governors have power to do that, I guess.

Five Dollar Frank was a one-of-kind attraction himself

Most of all, I miss "Five Dollar Frank," who was almost 80, gave Bridge Day goers a plane ride for five bucks, his original fare in 1940.

You'd get your money's worth flying with Frank. If things got boring, particularly with a newcomer, he would start gasping for breath, clutch his chest and lean toward his passenger, asking "Can you fly this dam thing?"

In between time he would rail against whatever president was in office or quote a long lyrical poem he learned in his youth.

Officialdom had a hard time dealing with Frank the year he flew under the gorge bridge.

Anyway, you can see why Bridge Day can be an annual highlight.

See So Long Five Dollar Frank