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Organizers of Sunday’s Tower Bridge dinner prepare for flying party poopers

09/26/2013 12:49 PM

09/27/2013 6:17 AM

Six hundred diners plan to feast at Sunday’s $175-per-plate Farm-to-Fork Tower Bridge Dinner, but flocks of uninvited guests may also appear.

The Tower Bridge is home to a vast number of pigeons, and an eight-person crew has spent the week scrubbing away bird droppings and cleaning the bridge in preparation of the event.

Ted Michienzi, the bridge’s maintenance supervisor for 36 years, estimates that up to 1,000 pigeons can be found daily on the Tower Bridge. And they’re known to leave their marks.

“There are pigeon droppings everywhere,” Michienzi said. “This whole event is insane. Why not put it on the (riverfront) promenade, where you can see the bridge and not have a bunch of pigeons flying overhead?”

Farm-to-Fork event organizers said they chose the Tower Bridge because it symbolically connects the agricultural heritages of Sacramento and Yolo counties.

The bridge dinner has raised $142,900 through ticket sales and table sponsorships, with proceeds funding public events during Farm-to-Fork week including Monday’s cattle drive near the state Capitol and Saturday’s Farm-to-Fork Festival on Capitol Mall. The festivities surround a recent initiative that declares Sacramento as America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital, which celebrates the region’s farms and seeks to promote local food tourism.

Officials with the Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau, the lead organizer of the gala dinner that caps Farm-to-Fork Week, had previously pondered the pigeon issue. They spent time researching online to learn if adding faux owls to the bridge or streamers might keep the birds at bay. Ultimately, organizers just hope the pigeons won’t turn into party poopers at an event that’s drawing civic officials, corporate sponsors and local culinary figureheads.

“We want to be sensitive to the people coming to the dinner, but also to the folks who call that bridge home,” said Mike Testa, senior vice president of the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau. “It’s a bridge, it’s outside and we hope that adds to the fun and doesn’t ruin the party. We don’t think we’ll be disturbing them (for too long).”

According to Michienzi, the Tower Bridge gets cleaned every five to six months at a cost of approximately $10,000. This cleanup effort was undertaken specifically for Sunday’s exclusive dinner.

Pigeon droppings can cause corrosion and mandate regular cleanings of the 737-foot-long bridge. Birds can be found in the 160-foot towers, columns and other parts of the structure.

Michienzi’s advice for attendees of Sunday’s dinner?

“Wear a hat,” he said.

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