By: Erin Moore, Ball State Office of Community Engagement—
Muncie, IN—If you happened to drive by the Washington Street Bridge last Thursday evening, you saw a sight that was just a dream a few months ago – tables and chairs spanning the length of the bridge under a perfect autumn sky, colored lights, jazz music, food, laughter, and tons of Muncie love.
Video produced by: Higher Aerial Photography and Guardian Brewery
Our community’s first Bridge Dinner brought together more than 500 friends, family, and neighbors to experience and celebrate Muncie in a completely new way. We gathered around butcher paper-covered tables to eat, draw, enjoy the talents of the Muncie Central Jazz Band, view centerpieces created by Burris 2nd graders, and soak in the beauty of the White River.
Attendees dined on walking tacos from Karma Kitchen, Mexican street corn from Sea Salt and Cinnamon, and alligator poboys from The Big Easy. Muncie Map Co., Speak Muncie, and Funcie, Indiana sold t-shirts and Guardian Brewery brought their Frank the Tank Coffee Stout for the 21 and up crowd. Banners and t-shirts displayed the elegant event logo designed by visual communication students at Ball State. Crayons and sidewalk chalk invited artists of all ages to leave their mark. Muncie Civic Theatre set furniture created a cozy seating area in the middle of it all.
“We were completely blown away by the community’s response,” said Muncie Action Plan’s Roni Johnson, who chaired the planning committee. “Our team did a good job of organizing, but what really made the event unforgettable were the hundreds and hundreds of people who came out to show that they love where they live.”
The event was inspired by Peter Kageyama, author of For the Love of Cities, who presented in Muncie last March about the importance of fun, beauty, and surprise in creating emotionally-engaging cities. Peter highlighted another city’s bridge dinner in his presentation and the idea caught on in Muncie.
“While other communities have hosted bridge dinners as catered events or fundraisers, we decided to make the Muncie event free and purely fun – a chance to relax, mingle, and enjoy the company of our neighbors,” said Mitch Isaacs, Shafer Leadership Academy. “We would love to see this become at least an annual event and attract more people from every neighborhood in Muncie.”
The support of the Mayor and the City of Muncie was essential for securing and cleaning the bridge, hanging lights, providing trashcans, and ensuring the safety of attendees, said Johnson.
A number of community members helped with setting up and tearing down after the event, including volunteers from Muncie Central’s Junior ROTC unit. “From heavy-lifting to decorating tables, the JROTC and other Muncie Central student volunteers jumped in with both feet. And the Muncie Central Jazz Band sounded amazing!” said Jeff Robinson, Cornerstone Center for the Arts. “All of the students were professional, enthusiastic, and thorough – very impressive.”
The planning committee is already thinking about the next bridge dinner and would welcome your input and participation (whether or not you were able to attend). Please share your thoughts with us through this brief on-line survey.
Muncie’s Bridge Dinner was hosted by:
Muncie Action Plan, City of Muncie, Building Better Neighborhoods, Cornerstone Center for the Arts, Muncie Arts and Culture Council, Muncie Chamber of Commerce, Muncie Civic Theatre, Muncie Community Schools, Muncie/Delaware County Economic Development Alliance, Muncie Downtown Development, Office of Community Engagement at Ball State, Shafer Leadership Academy, Walls Furniture, and Woof Boom Radio.
Photos by: Abigayle Devendorf, Aimee Fant, Erin Moore, Jes Beals, Keri Whalen, Lindsay Sharp, Robbie Mehling and Ana Pichardo.