SAN FRANCISCO -- With a pageantry reminiscent of the Old West, San Francisco today swept into a week-long Golden Gate Bridge Fiesta to celebrate opening to traffic of the world's largest suspension bridge.
Thousands of visitors from Mexico, Canada, the 11 western states and all California transformed the old Pacific Coast port city into a frontier town.
Gay celebrants marched about the streets, singing and laughing. They were dressed in the serapes and sombreros of California's early days.
The toll gates of the Golden Gate bridge opened officially at 6 a.m. this morning to signal the beginning of the festivities. It was estimated that 200,000 pedestrians crossed the $35 million structure during the day.
Delegations from all the western states joined in a mammoth parade to pass in review before the grandstands at the Redwood Bowl in Crissy Field. More than 20,000 marchers, 100 bands and 100 gayly decorated floats joined. The kilted bagpipe band of British Columbia contrasted with the gay Spanish costumes of the Mexican and South American celebrants in the parade. The khaki colored uniforms of soldiers mingled with the scarlet-tunics of Canadian Northwest Mounties.
A dramatic pageant, "The Span of Gold," with John Charles Thomas, noted baritone in the lead, and a cast of 3000 persons provided a spectacular climax to the day's festivities in the outdoor theater at Crissey Field tonight.
The pageant dramatized the history of California from primitive times to statehood, presented right episodes climaxing with illumination of the bridge for the first time.
During the day, bowling and handball tournaments and a hard rock drilling contest for miners captured the interest of stray celebrants. The contests will continue tomorrow and Saturday.
The celebration tomorrow marks the formal opening of the bridge to wheel traffic, dedication of the bridge aid its approach by high officials, arrival of the U.S. fleet to take part in the celebration and a host of side attractions.
A party of dignitaries will leave San Francisco at 8 a.m. to board a special ferry for Sausalito and go thence to Waldo Point.