Additional reporting by Samantha Smith, NewsRadio 830 WCCO
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Interstate 35W bridge over the Mississippi River will be getting a festive makeover for Twin Cities Pride this weekend.
The bridge’s underpass will be lit up in a rainbow, instead of its usual blue glow, starting at 9:20 p.m. Friday. Twin Cities Pride celebrates the metro area’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.
It was a long process for Twin Cities Pride to get the special lighting request approved. Several different entities had to come together including the City of Minneapolis, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, Minnesota Department of Transportation and Outfront Minnesota.
“It took two and a half years to put in place, but this year, for the first year, we’ll do it,” said Minneapolis Councilman Robert Lilligren, who says the idea first came from a friend.
While rainbows are often associated with LGBT organizations, Minneapolis City Councilman Robert Lilligren says this is about more than that.
“More generally, a rainbow is an inclusive symbol, a symbol of diversity and that is who we are here. Because of the tragedy of its collapse it draws a lot of attention. The bridge was put in place with these lights, this LED system that can be easily changed to be a community asset,” said Lilligren. “In a lot of ways it more broadly represents inclusion and diversity and it’s a great symbol for that which is really, in a lot of ways, what Minneapolis is all about.”
MnDOT will adjust 570 light fixtures on the bridge to rainbow colors, and another 48 light fixtures will make the bridge piers glow purple. Councilman Lilligren says there was no additional cost to light up the bridge in rainbow colors since the LED lighting system was already in place.
The IT experts behind the Pride Festival say technically, it’s a simple switch, but symbolically, it has big impact.
“For me, I think its pride, equality and celebration,” said Twin Cities Pride volunteer Matt Shaw. “I think it shows a lot of respect for the community for our feelings and our rights.”
“I think there might be some people out there that think we are throwing it in their face, but that could be a good thing, because we aren’t go away we are here and here to stay,” said Twin Cities pride volunteer Eric Zimmerman.
Organizers realize the colors can connect and divide two sides, after Minnesota lawmakers passed a 2012 ballot amendment to ban gay marriage in the state constitution. Chuck Derrill with the Minnesota Family Council said the symbol should serve as a different kind of reminder.
“We hope that when people see the lit up bridge that they should be reminded that they will be able to vote on marriage in 2012, just like voters have done in 31 other states,” said Derrill.
John Schneider and his wife live next to the bridge, and say it’s a welcome change.
“It would make the bridge quite pretty, an inclusive message, certainly, one with which some people disagree, ok, but it’s a rainbow folks, c’mon,” said Schneider.
City and community leaders will celebrate the special event with a small gathering Friday evening followed by the lighting at 9:20 p.m.
The festival continues through Sunday.
Here are the details from the city.
“The I-35W Bridge’s “snowbound white” surface will glow in rainbow colors Friday night in recognition of Twin Cities Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride in Minneapolis. The Minnesota Department of Transportation is providing the special lighting, which was requested by the non-profit organization Twin Cities Pride, with the support of the City of Minneapolis.
“City Council Vice President will be joined by State Senator Scott Dibble, Twin Cities Pride Director Dot Belstler, and other community representatives for the lighting. Governor Mark Dayton and Mayor R.T. Rybak have also been invited. The event is a cooperative effort of Twin Cities Pride, the City of Minneapolis, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, the Minnesota Department of Transportation, OutFront Minnesota, and the Saloon.”
WCCO’s Samantha Smith Interviews Lilligren