OAK HILL — 100,000: The estimated number of people in attendance at Bridge Day 2019.
910: The number of rappels completed during the 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. window.
790: BASE jumps taken from the New River Gorge Bridge during that same time span.
331: Those registered to take part in the 4th annual Active Southern West Virginia Bridge Day 5K.
316: Rappellers who ascended and descended from the undercarriage of the bridge.
300: The approximate number of BASE jumpers who took part on the only day on which it is legal to jump from the bridge.
81: The age of the oldest BASE jumper.
40: The number of times Bridge Day has occurred.
22: Bridge Day festivals led by Sharon Cruikshank, for whom the 40th annual event was her last as chair of the Bridge Day Commission.
19: The age of the youngest BASE jumper.
16: The number of tandem jumps taken on Bridge Day.
3: The number of hours it took SustainU to sell out of the 40th anniversary T-shirts and hoodies on-site.
2: Only two jumpers were transported with minor injuries.
1: The first Bridge Day for Becky Sullivan, the new director of the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce and the New River Gorge Convention & Visitors Bureau, in the organizational mix.
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On Oct. 21, the Bridge Day Commission made Sullivan the event’s official chair, so she’s already planning for 2020.
While Sullivan had worked as a vendor for Visit Southern West Virginia, her previous employer, for nine years, she said it was eye-opening to shadow Cruikshank and see what it takes to put together the state’s largest one-day festival.
It was overwhelming, she said.
“Unless you’re involved in the heart of Bridge Day, you have no idea how many parts there are to it,” she said Monday during an interview at the Chamber office in Oak Hill.
“There are lots and lots of pieces to the puzzle. Thankfully, we have a team of wonderful volunteers. Without them it wouldn’t be possible.”
While it was overwhelming at times, Sullivan said she couldn’t have asked for a better introduction.
“It was a huge success,” she said. “We had very little problems getting things set up, just a few minor issues in the afternoon and then a great wrap-up (and) the weather was perfect.”
“Everything we’ve heard from individuals and on social media has been very positive. There were a few complaints about crowd control (and) we’re always looking at what we can improve,” she said.
The Taste of Bridge Day, always held the Friday night prior to Bridge Day, also was a major success, Sullivan added. “The crowd was great, the ticket lines moved quickly and the food was delicious.”
The Bridge Day Commission will meet twice next month to begin serious discussion of the 2020 event, she said.
“We always want it to be a success,” she said, adding that she is still learning as she goes.
Cruikshank, who was elected as mayor of Fayetteville, will work with Sullivan, teaching her the ropes, until the end of the calendar year.
“(Sharon) has done it for 22 years. She has a well-oiled machine. I feel like it’s going to (take me a while) to get to the good part. We’re both learning new jobs together.
“I’m just getting acclimated to wearing a hat for the Chamber and wearing the hat for the CVB and wearing the Bridge Day hat and promoting Fayette County at its finest,” she said.
On a personal note, Sullivan said her favorite part of Bridge Day 40 was “going down below.”
“I grew up in Fayetteville and live in Oak Hill and have been to a number of Bridge Days, but I’d never been down below,” she said. “I got to see the rescue boats, the media boats, the BASE jumpers, the rappellers, the landing zone, the emergency zone. It really was beautiful.”
While she’d never been on the banks of the New before Bridge Day 40, she has completed Bridge Walk and whitewater rafting trips in a professional capacity. Never a guide on the catwalk or on the river, Sullivan, who is proficient in American Sign Language, occasionally has served rafting companies and Bridge Walk as an interpreter for deaf customers.
A business administration graduate from Concord, Sullivan has worked in the tourism industry also, leaving her in a unique position to wear the hats required by her new position. “I have background in the CVB world and tourism marketing.
“I want to emphasize the businesses (that are Chamber members) and combine local events with local businesses,” she said.
She pointed out specifically the New River Gorge Sports and Car Festival, which is still a toddler by Bridge Day years. “That could be a very successful event,” she said.
“We need to get all these communities involved and get people to see the different communities for what they are and what they offer.
“We need to shine the spotlight on what we’re good at,” she said.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; follow on Twitter @Fayette_Cheryl