Just as the historic Stillwater Lift Bridge connected Minnesota and Wisconsin in 1931, the grand reopening will bring both communities together in May 2020.

Area community members and local officials are planning a big celebration for the grand reopening of the historic Lift Bridge and new five-mile loop trail system next spring, May 15-16.

Stillwater City Council member Mike Polehna said there will be a ribbon cutting, community spaghetti dinner on the bridge and street dance in the plaza with musician Tim Sigler on Friday, May 15.

On Saturday, May 16, the Greater Stillwater Chamber of Commerce is organizing a pancake breakfast, he said.

Following the breakfast, Stillwater resident Sara Jespersen hopes to break the world record for number of people holding hands in a circle. Jespersen is organizing “Hands Across the St. Croix,” which will involve more than 6,000 people holding hands on the Minnesota and Wisconsin sides of the loop trail.

Jespersen, who owns Trumi Training and The Lumberjack, an ax-throwing bar that will likely open this fall in Stillwater, said breaking a world record requires a lot of organization ahead of time.

“I think we’d be creating a new record,” she said. “6,400 people is a fair amount to organize and do...You need one leader for every 50 people.”

That equates to about 130 leaders. Additionally, preparation includes marking 130 spots with room for 50 people around the loop trail. Participants will receive wristbands and photographers will use drones to confirm the official count of people present.

It also includes finding off-site parking and transportation to get everyone around the trail to complete the circle.

“That part is certainly the trickiest part,” she said.

The Lift Bridge closed Aug. 2, 2017 and will reopen for bike, pedestrian and boat traffic around Thanksgiving this fall, said Bill Turnblad, Stillwater’s Community Development Director. Once reopened, the bridge will become part of the five-mile loop trail system.

The celebration is a regional event, Polehna added. He’s working with community members from various cities in the area including Stillwater, Oak Park Heights, Bayport, Hudson, Wis., New Richmond, Wis. and Somerset, Wis.

“It’s more than just a Stillwater thing,” he said. “We’re working together to bring the two states together.”

In addition to the Stillwater festivities, Polehna said the St. Croix River Association is planning a paddle along the loop trail.

“I think that trail is going to have a major impact on Stillwater economically,” Polehna said. “It makes for a healthy city. It gets people out walking. It gets people out socializing. It brings the community together.”

To volunteer on a planning committee, email Polehna at mpolehna@ci.stillwater.mn.us.

Contact Kim Schneider at kim.schneider@ecm-inc.com

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