As Bradenton’s $6.2 million Riverwalk project approaches its long-awaited Oct. 18 grand opening, Artists’ Guild of Manatee president, Linda Bronkema, has her hands full — quite literally.
Bronkema, who runs the Village of the Arts quilting and fabric art store, Bits and Pieces, stepped up to the task of stitching together approximately 140 ribbon segments that will comprise the official ribbon for the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Each 6-by-42-inch segment is hand decorated and represents a business, government office, organization or — in the case of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Bradenton Marauders — sports team that calls Bradenton home.
Bronkema said the idea stemmed from a meeting between Realize Bradenton and the Manatee County Cultural Alliance. The initial goal, she said, was to break a world record by creating a large scale patchwork ribbon representative of the multitude of diverse businesses and organizations in Manatee County. However, the committee quickly realized that the guidelines for the Guinness Book of World Records are too stringent for the purposes of the community ribbon.
“The rules were too strict and boring, and we aren’t normal. We have a lot of local color, so we wanted to make sure our ribbon represents that,” Bronkema said. “The only guideline for the project was ‘Come by and pick up some ribbon, put whatever you want on it — as long as it isn’t too heavy — and bring it back to me.’”
Participants in the project took advantage of the creative license they were granted to create a colorful sea of unique contributions. Some segments are painted, some are appliquéd, some feature sequins and glitter; others are quilted or cross-stitched. Bronkema said that because October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, several of the segments include ribbons of their own — pink, of course.
Notably, the connecting end of each ribbon segment features six inches of blue fabric, which Bronkema said serves as a symbol of the river that runs through and connects the community.
“This project has really highlighted the camaraderie and friendship that exists in this community," she said. "The support we’ve received from everyone who has submitted a ribbon is really amazing.”
Participating businesses and organizations include most of the galleries and studios in Village of the Arts, Keeton’s Office & Art Supply, the Manatee County Historical Society, SOLVE Maternity Homes, Theresa’s Restaurant, the South Florida Museum, the Bradenton Marauders, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ spring training team and the Manatee County Chamber of Commerce.
Once sewn together, the completed ribbon will extend approximately 500 feet from end to end and will require several volunteers just to hold it during the ribbon cutting ceremony, which is scheduled to take place at 5:15 p.m. at Riverwalk's Oct. 18 grand opening celebration.
Following the ribbon-cutting ceremony, participants have the option to reclaim their ribbon segment to display at their business or organization, but the project committee hopes to find a way to put the completed ribbon on display — possibly at this year’s ArtSlam, which moves from its former Old Main Street location to the new Riverwalk for this year’s Nov. 10 event.
Bronkema encourages Bradenton residents to catch a glimpse of the ribbon while it is on display at Riverwalk.
“You’ll have to be there to get a concept for how big this thing really is,” Bronkema said. “You simply won’t believe it otherwise.”