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Originally published Saturday, February 25, 2012 at 7:00 PM

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San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge celebrates 75 years

San Francisco's beloved Golden Gate Bridge opened in 1937, and major celebrations are planned this year to mark its 75th birthday.

Cox Newspapers

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Golden Gate

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SAN FRANCISCO — It is the establishing shot for virtually every movie set in San Francisco. Babies have been born on it; lives have been lost on it. It has been on the cover of Rolling Stone. More than 110,000 vehicles cross it every day.

The iconic Golden Gate Bridge celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, with plans afoot for massive celebrations, many pegged to Memorial Day weekend — the suspension bridge opened on May 27, 1937 — but others taking place all over the city throughout the year. San Francisco loves a party, and the West Coast gateway's birthday is a fitting excuse.

"The allure and magic is in layers and textures, just as the bridge is itself," bridge spokeswoman Mary Currie said. "It's been called the West Coast's Statue of Liberty."

The May 26-27 celebration, planned by the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District and paid for by corporate sponsors, will span about four miles of bay front, from the city's Fort Point, right below the bridge, all the way down to Pier 39 (where the sea lions hang out to the delight of San Francisco visitors) and will include a watercraft parade, dance performances, music, food, history exhibits, a vintage-car display and other festivities.

Museums, arts organizations and others are putting together a series of public programs called 75 Tributes to the Bridge. There will be art exhibits, performances of all kinds and screenings of films with those bridge establishing shots, along with lots and lots of parties.

In fact, about the only place you can be sure there won't be a party for the bridge this year is the bridge itself.

The city tried that when the bridge turned 50, inviting the public to walk across it to celebrate. The idea was to have northbound walkers on one side and southbound walkers on the other, flowing very neatly. People being people, that didn't happen, and 300,000 soon found themselves in a gigantic human knot, unable to move. Thousands of others couldn't even set foot on the bridge.

This year, for both safety and security, planners decided to steer the action away from the bridge, which will simply reign as a backdrop.

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