Raffling off a place in Naples’ history

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — Is it possible to raffle off a historic moment?

Sure, it is. At least in Naples, where people can buy raffle tickets to be the last person to drive over the old bridge, or to be selected to be the first driver over the new bridge when the torch is passed.

On May 18, the Naples’ Swing Bridge, built in 1954, will end its lifecycle. On the third Friday of May 2012, civilian traffic will begin driving over the Bay of Naples Bridge — the fixed concrete-arch bridge, which was designed to create a more streamlined traffic flow for the region.

To celebrate the event, the residents have planned an elaborate ribbon-cutting ceremony, which includes a parade on the Causeway and a gathering at the Village Green.

There are still plenty of chances to drive into history. Plus, the locations of where to buy those once-in-a-lifetime raffle tickets will be expanding, according to Causeway Committee Chairman Bob Neault.

The tickets cost $5 a piece. At first, the only place to pick up a raffle ticket was at the Town Office, where 68 tickets have been purchased. The tickets are still available there.

However, after a recent meeting of the Naples Main Street group, everyone concurred that there should be more opportunities for people to acquire raffle tickets for this historic occasion.

“People were disappointed the only place to get the tickets was the town office. So, we will look into distributing it wider,” Neault said. Additional venues for raffle ticket purchases will be at local businesses in Naples, he added.

Already, Nancy Hanson, a NMS member and owner of Coldwell Banker Lake Regions Properties, has sold more than 40 raffle tickets. She admitted she purchased 20 of those for herself, and would be “absolutely excited” if her number was drawn. This week, she picked up another 40 tickets. Hanson drove around the local businesses and public buildings to hang 50 posters about the raffle. She said she was trying to spread the word about the offering.

“That money is going toward the continuation of the Causeway. This part of the raffle is through the town, and I am just selling tickets,” Hanson said.

While many residents are excited to have the new bridge unveiled, locals also want to pay homage to the bridge that for 58 years existed in their hometown.

“The ties of the community to the nostalgia of the old bridge” became a driving force behind creating the raffle, according to Neault.

For the upcoming parade, committee members are trying to locate a vehicle from the bridge’s birth year, 1954, he said.

“We are having trouble finding one,” Neault said, adding that longtime resident Sonny Berman offered the use of his 1955 Ford Woody.

Berman said he attended the opening ceremony for the Swing Bridge, and it would be incredible to participate in the ceremony for the new bridge by driving a classic car in the parade.

On the newer end of automobile manufacturing, six 2012 vehicles are being donated for those taking the ride across the new bridge.

In line with tradition, the Naples Fire & Rescue Department’s trucks will join the parade, including a 1938 fire apparatus.

The parade participants will stop half way across the bridge so the moment can be documented with photographs, Neault said during an April 18 Causeway Committee meeting.

Rick Paraschak suggested, “When going across the new bridge, (we should) turn on the sprinkler system so water is spraying.”

Neault said that detail should be determined later, depending on the weather on the afternoon of May 18.

“We might want to wait to see which way the wind is blowing first,” he said.

Some sprucing up is scheduled on the local level to beautify the Causeway before the big day.

“Naples Main Street is teaming up with the Naples Recreation Department to do a trash clean-up” on Saturday, May 12, Neault said.

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