Labor Day weekend has different meanings for everyone. For some, it means camping, picnics, and other outdoor activities. For others, it is simply a chance to relax and enjoy a long weekend. New traditions are formed every year, yet there is one tradition in northern Michigan that has been standing for 55 years: the annual Labor Day Mackinac Bridge Walk. Kicking off at 7:00AM and led by the current Governor of Michigan, walking across the Mighty Mac draws an average of 40,000-65,000 participants each year. The reason for such a large attendance is the fact that this is the one day of the year that foot traffic is allowed on the bridge.
All participants start on the St. Ignace end of the bridge and walk the five miles back to Mackinac City. There is no fee to walk the bridge, but bus transportation from Mackinac City to St. Ignace is available for $5 per person. Participants may start anytime after the Governor’s party, but no one is permitted to start after 11:00AM, therefore it is important to arrive early to secure transportation. The two lanes on the far East side of the bridge are open for walkers until 9:30AM, then just one lane on the East side is open until all walkers have completed the bridge walk. Bicycles, skateboards, rollerblades, and pets are not allowed during the walk. Service animals, strollers, and wheelchairs are permitted.
This year, the Michigan Department of Transportation is offering a contest for bridge walkers to share their experiences while making the trek across the Mighty Mac. Valid entries consist of a photograph, video, or narrative story of any Labor Day Mackinac Bridge Walk. Entries may be posted to the Michigan Department of Transportation’s Facebook or Twitter pages. The contest began on Monday, August 27th and will end Monday, September 10th at 11:59PM. The grand prize winner will receive a a Mackinac Bridge Tower Tour for two. Official rules and further prize information can be found on MDOT’s website. Bridge tours are available to others as well, though this unique experience is becoming very popular and it is difficult to schedule all tour requests. The towers each stand at 552 feet above the water, therefore an enjoyment of heights is necessary.
Having officially opened to traffic in 1957, the Mackinac Bridge has been hosting the annual bridge walk from the start. It has been said that only 68 people participated in that first walk, with a steady increase in attendance since. Participants all receive a Certificate of Completion upon finishing the walk in Mackinac City. The annual Labor Day Bridge Walk is a unique event in which you are given the rare opportunity to walk over the third largest suspension bridge in the world. For more information regarding rules, regulations, and photographs, check out the Mackinac Bridge’s webpage.
Jennifer Hamilton, Feature Writer