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Golden Gate Festival to Celebrate Bridge's 75th Anniversary in May

Two-day event at a number of San Francisco waterfront sites hopes to avoid the overwhelming surge of bridge visitors that accompanied the 50th anniversary.

The Golden Gate Bridge will host a two-day festival in May to celebrate the 75th anniversary of its opening, bridge officials announced Tuesday.

The Golden Gate Festival, scheduled over Memorial Day weekend on May 26 and 27, will celebrate the bridge's 75 years of operation with a watercraft parade, various musical and dance performances and other activities.

The festival will take place on San Francisco waterfront sites such as Crissy Field, Marina Green, Fort Mason, Ghirardelli Square and Pier 39, and will finish with a fireworks display.

The events will serve as a fitting celebration for a bridge that is "utterly unique and magical" and a "symbol of innovation" for the region, said Janet Reilly, president of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District board of directors.

Reilly was among the public officials and community leaders to announce the details of the festival at a news conference this morning in the parking lot on the southern end of the bridge connecting San Francisco and Marin counties.

Larry Baer, president of the San Francisco Giants and co-chair of the Golden Gate Bridge 75th Anniversary Steering Committee, said, "I grew up looking at the bridge, walking across the bridge, enjoying the bridge," and said he was pleased to be helping organize the festival.

Golden Gate National Recreation Area General Superintendent Frank Dean said since the bridge was built in 1937, many improvements have been made to the surrounding areas, and "we have now a spectacular urban national park" with the bridge as its centerpiece.

Bridge officials hope this year's milestone is not a repeat of the 50th anniversary celebration, in which hundreds of thousands of people showed up, resulting in an unprecedented increase in the bridge's load, according to a report by Harvard University's Graduate School of Design.

The large number of people, many of whom reported claustrophobia, stretched the bridge's suspension cables "as tight as harp strings," a witness said in the report, which is posted on the bridge's website.

The bridge withstood the celebration, but out of an abundance of safety, this year's event will focus on the surrounding waterfront.

"The bridge is not the stage this time," Reilly said. "Rather, the community will come together to celebrate this engineering wonder together in a festival atmosphere."

For more information about the festival, as well as a series of events celebrating the bridge in the upcoming months, visit www.goldengatebridge75.org.

--Bay City News Service

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