Fenton businesses and motorists waited five long years to see the new bridge over the Meramec River open to traffic. But it was closed to cars again Saturday as city officials from both sides of the river and Fenton residents young and old celebrated the city's 175th birthday. The bridge was reopened at 7 a.m. Sunday.
"It's refreshing to see this," said Fenton Mayor Dennis Hancock to a crowd of birthday partyers, after being delivered to a makeshift stage at the Fenton end of the bridge by a 1901 Oldsmobile vehicle. "This is one of the great days in the city's history."
Hancock spoke of the Meramec River as one thread that ties all of Fenton together, ever since a man named William Lindsay Long drew up a plat map for the city back in 1818, naming the "town" after his grandmother Elizabeth Fenton Bennett. Long didn't get the map recorded by the county until 1837, however, which is why this year marks the 175-year milestone.
Hancock also talked of another thread that connects the community - Gravois Road, which he said originally was an old Indian trail and later became the main thoroughfare for commerce and development in Fenton.
Gravois Road was filled with people Saturday as a couple dozen tents were set up by various groups and businesses in an open field at Gravois and Water Street.
Entertainment for the day was provided by a pair of bands that couldn't have been more different -- Zydeco Crawdaddy's and the Bob Kuban Band. Both groups entertained from a band shell in a far corner of Joe Clark's Restaurant parking lot. Two other attractions kept festival-goers young and old entertained as well - Sammy J, balloon artist extraordinaire, and the Bubble Bus, that flung thousands of bubbles onto an area of the fairgrounds to the delight of spectators
See related article: Fenton Days Fun With Bubbles
Fenton police reported no problems during the birthday party, other than a bit of gridlock brought about by the scarcity of parking. But few, if any tickets were given out to those who were able to secure a parking spot in areas where it was prohibited. Attendance was estimetd to be about 3,000, with people coming and going all day.
At day's end, festival organizers were discussing improvements that could be made to the festival, should there is be another one in 2013. This year's event was somewhat hastily put together as a way to celebrate the city's 175th birthday and the opening of the new bridge. With more planning and more time to prepare, Fenton Days festival could bring the whole city together again for another good time in the Olde Towne.