BERNARDSVILLE – Some motorists were previewed the colorful mural that will be installed on Mount Airy Road Bridge this week, but the official unveiling on Memorial Day will give residents a rare opportunity to see the community’s artwork unhindered by vehicle traffic.
The grand event, held at noon on Memorial Day, Monday, May 31, is part of a series of holiday activities that include early morning “honorary escort” for local veterans.
The ceremonies are coordinated by the ward and Downtown Bernardsville, a nonprofit ward group.
Mount Airy will be closed to vehicles for the unveiling from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. so residents can safely take photos and visit some food trucks in the nearby Amerman parking lot without avoiding traffic.
The district’s popular Memorial Day Parade will no longer take place this year due to the pandemic.
Instead, the organizers created a unique way for residents to greet the local heroes. An “Honor Escort” is staged, in which veterans are driven through the city center in vintage cars after traditional church services in Borough Hall.
“I know people are disappointed not to hold a parade for the second year in a row,” said Mayor Mary Jane Canose. “Unfortunately, towards the end of the game, the governor opened outdoor meetings. Although we could have a parade now, we didn’t have enough time to get them together.
“We’re going to have our limited outdoor meeting now, so we thought this was a nice compromise,” she added. “We will still make it solemn to honor the veterans appropriately.”
“We wish we could have put the parade together, but such an endeavor just wasn’t possible,” added Olivia Manning, executive director of Downtown Bernardsville. “We thought this was a happy middle ground.”
Traditional services begin at 10 a.m. at the memorial in Borough Hall on Route 202
Immediately afterwards, around 10:45 am, the veterans will be driven along Route 202 through Olcott Square. The escort turns left on Church Street towards Bernards High School, left on Olcott Avenue, left on Anderson Hill Road and straight back through downtown.
You will be dropped off in the parking lot of the Palmer Building on Mount Airy Road, a short walk from the overpass bridge for the mural unveiling.
Manning said eight to 14 cars will be used for the escort, including her family’s “Time Machine,” a replica of the car used in the popular Back to the Future movie.
Other residents have agreed to drive veterans in their classic cars. Local residents are encouraged to line the route to cheer the veterans on as they drive by. However, the roads will not be closed during the escort.
At least two food trucks will be parked in the Amerman parking lot for residents to have lunch from 11 a.m. to 1.30 p.m. The parking lot will be closed to traffic.
The reveal of the community mural will be “short and sweet,” Manning said. “We will literally give our speeches in the middle of the bridge.”
“Keep it simple,” she added, “especially since it really is the first major live event after the pandemic. We want to keep it simple, but at the same time be fun.
“The goal is to allow people to walk around, experience the space as best they can, and take a few photos. There aren’t many ways to see the mural like this. It’s not that we close this street a lot.
“It’s a different kind of experience. So we’re going to keep the presentation part as short as possible so people can just spend time there.
“I think people will enjoy it, especially the people who have been waiting for this project for a while and are excited to see the finished project, the people who have come up to paint three or four times,” she added.
Numerous volunteers have been helping to paint the mural in sections at meetings at the train station and at Bernards High School over the past few months.
Basking Ridge artist Caren Frost Olmsted, who designed the mural with community input, spent three days installing the artwork on the bridge last week.
On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, she and several assistants were on site for six hours. They finished half the project or one side of the bridge. The other side should be finished in the coming week.
“It’s been a long process,” she said. “I am very meticulous. I want it to stand the test of time and be perfect. ”
Frost Olmsted noted that the project was first considered in 2019.
“I know Covid intervened, but it was two years ago that (Mayor) Mary Jane (Canose) called and asked me to look at the bridge,” she recalled.
Some people got a preview of the work as they drove by this week.
“People are just getting a little taste,” Manning said on Friday afternoon. “Not a huge fan of this, but there is no other way. But nobody will see both sides at the same time. ”
Frost Olmsted said initial reviews were positive.
“The passers-by honked, waved, gave thumbs up,” she said. “I was very happy about such a nice reaction. It’s very exciting.
“One woman said, ‘Wow, it almost feels like she’s been here forever.’ ” She said. “For me as an artist, that means that I did something right. It’s a very satisfying comment. ”
The mural contains images of popular buildings and sites across the city.
The art is covered up at night after the workers leave.
Manning said organizers are still working on details for the reveal but want to drop the banner covering the mural on both sides of the bridge at the same time.
“We’ll try to make it as dramatic as possible,” she said. “To cut zips or some kind of ribbon so that everything falls at once. To make it epic. ”