Slava Ukraini. You may have seen this phrase in media reports or on Facebook. It’s most literal translation is ‘Glory to Ukraine’ and it has been become an international rallying cry in the aftermath of the Russian invasion of the country.
To show solidarity with Ukraine and its people, Shreveport-Bossier’s new ‘Bakowski Bridge of Lights’ lit up the night sky on February 27th and afterward in beautiful blue and yellow, the colors of the Ukrainian flag (ironically, also colors found in Shreveport’s city flag).
In the post announcing the lights, Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins wrote, “The City of Shreveport is showing its solidarity with #Ukraine by turning the Bakowski Bridge of Lights yellow and blue. Countries all around the world are lighting up their cities the color of Ukraine’s flag to show support. I stand with my friends deployed in Poland with my former military unit, the 3rd Infantry Division as they deploy to Germany and all the other troops around the world helping with this mission! #LoveShreveport “
Photos of the beautiful Texas Street bridge were shown on TV stations around the country and picked up in social media that went around the world. Casey Jones, the Shreveport Regional Arts Council’s media and marketing director, explained that changing the lights on the bridge is more difficult that just flipping a single switch. Each of the hundreds of lights, he says, must be individually programmed to create the display.
The efforts of all who took the time to re-light the bridge for #Ukraine are appreciated!
Story posted Feb. 24, 2022
Tuesday, February 22, 2022 was a dreary, overcast day chased by pockets of rain. By dusk, the wind had picked up and the temperatures were falling…and none of that was making a difference to the people gathered to see a spectacular show that had been years in the making.
In 1997, the Long-Allen, also known as the Texas Street Bridge became known to all as the Neon Bridge. The span over the Red River was a neon art project, created and executed by an artist named Rockne Krebs. The installation lit up the bridge in bright neon tubing and it became a universally-loved landmark.
By 2014, the neon had gone dark and the discussion started about what should come next. Over time, those discussions took on momentum. Neon, fragile and easily breakable in harsh conditions, was old technology. The new product was LED that could be made into rope and that could be programmed to dance and change colors to music or whim. Though the technology was better, the cost of the rehab continued to rise. It was then that Shreveport optometrist Dr. George Bakowski and wife Sandra, stepped in with a generous offer of a $1m donation for the bridge relighting. In doing so, Dr. Bakowski talked about the support given to him by the community. “The Shreveport/Bossier City communities have supported my optometry practice for 45 years, and Sandra and I have decided to give back in a way that brings these cities alive with light, instills civic pride, and unites the people like nothing else will,” says Dr. George Bakowski. “I hope ours is the first step in incentivizing others to contribute to a new era of vitality for our area of Northwest Louisiana.”
Incentivize, it did. Other donations followed, from the Red River Waterway Commission, the Louisiana Public Service Commission, the Shreveport Downtown Development Authority and Will Atkins. Together, this generosity purchased 13,000 LEDs that illuminate 2,982 feet and will once again bring color and excitement to the Texas Street Bridge.
The unveiling on 2-22-22 was nothing less than spectacular. Fireworks lit the night sky and the Bakowski Bridge of Lights danced and galloped and glowed in a way locals had not seen before. The Hoan Bridge in Milwaukee, Wisconsin sang out its welcome on social media, and the airwaves were filled with photos and videos of the amazing performance.
The lights will be on each night and we are told that in the summer there will be light shows each Friday. Stay tuned for more!