The speeches went on and on and on and on ... and on, everyone on the stage thanking everyone else on the stage for having a hand in building this thing we were all standing on: the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. Mayor Mike Rawlings, Friday night's emcee, introduced "our new skyline" and the structure that would "bridge our socio-economic gap" created, he said, by a simple (and small, most days) body of water. But in speech after speech after speech that followed, most of those who spoke wound up at the same starting point: City Manager Mary Suhm, who, as former mayor Ron Kirk put it, is the "mother" of the latest bridge to span the Trinity River and flatlands beneath, this one costing upwards of $180 million.
The U.S. trade ambassador explained that during his tenure as mayor, the Texas Department of Transportation told Dallas City Hall its levees would need to be repaired, its bridges replaced. Kirk, being a practical man, just wanted to know how to get it done, "how to get the piers out." But Suhm, he said, wanted more. And so, one week later, she walked into his office and dropped on his desk a book featuring the work of Santiago Calatrava. This, she told him. We should do this.
And they did, even when it looked like it was "coming off the rails," said Laura Miller, praising Tom Leppert for rescuing the project time and again.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the Observer's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Dallas's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
But Suhm didn't sit on the stage, which was filled with way-back council members (Mark Housewright, Leo Chaney, Alan Walne) but also lacking the likes of Scott Griggs, Angela Hunt, Vonciel Jones Hill and Carolyn Davis. The city manager was sitting below, off to the right, amongst the Hill and Hunt families and other VIPs whose price of admission to the gala opening were millions in donations. She stood once, nodded, but said nothing into the microphone. No need.
After all the talking came the singing courtesy Lyle Lovett, an assuredly respectable choice for a $200-a-ticket party. Toward the end of his hour-long set, he and the big band slow-danced through "North Dakota," maybe his finest song (written with Willis Alan Ramsey) from his finest record (Joshua Judges Ruth, exactly 20 years old) but not exactly a party pick-me-upper; but then ... wait for it, wait for it ... "That's Right (You're Not From Texas)." A crowd packed the middle of the bridge, but there was no bad spot on either side of the stage; even the sound was solid, perfect.
Seems a shame they're going to open this bridge to vehicular traffic at month's end; it's wide enough to comfortably accommodate a large stage and big band and crowd of eating-and-drinking-and-drinking thousands in a way the Continental Ave. Bridge won't upon its conversion to a pedestrian park that's set to begin almost as soon as the MHH opens. And: The arch looks very nice when standing directly beneath it. You will, of course, be able to walk on the Calatrava once again today; and The Relatives perform at 5, don't forget.
I left this shindig 'round 10, when the fireworks were timed to start in order to make the teevee news. City officials had suggested watching them not on the bridge, but from Singleton or
IndustrialRiverfront to get "the whole effect." I hit Doc's Bail Bonds just as they started and pulled over to take the photo you see below. Then I rolled north, to the King's Cabaret, where two dudes and a date, let's say, were enjoying the light show from the parking lot. As I drove north on the toll road, you could still see the fireworks in the rear-view mirror, the climactic explosions in the sky visible all the way to Lovers Lane. Maybe we don't need a bridge to bridge north and south, just more fireworks.