Hamilton neighbors meet on High-Main Bridge for unique event

For one evening, the Great Miami River didn’t divide Hamilton’s residents, thus fueling the East Side vs. West Side debate.

Instead, the bridge over the water was a connector.

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Hundreds of residents — representing Hamilton’s 17 neighborhoods — gathered on the city’s High/Main Bridge as a way to show unity. It was as if the bridge was a symbolic structure to bring the city together, residents said.

“We all are in this together,” said Sara Everette, 40, who brought three of her children to the event sponsored by 17Strong. “You don’t see East Side. You see Hamilton.”

That was exactly the goal, said Joanne Wallisch, chairwoman of the first-ever event put on by Hamilton’s 17Strong effort. She said 17Strong is working to strengthen all parts of the city and better connect the neighborhoods with each other and city government.

She said every neighborhood possesses its own “personality.”

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Many people sat on the 43 tables that stretched across the bridge. Organizers encouraged attendees to sit with people they didn’t know. Wallisch said she hoped residents made new friends and learned how to be more active in their communities.

Chris Roehl, chairman of 17Strong, said he also hoped residents shared ideas that have worked in their communities to improve their neighborhoods and make them safer. He said all of the city’s neighborhoods deal with unique challenges.

The Rev. Sam Harnish, pastor of Park Avenue United Methodist Church, said it’s important for all churches to play active roles in their communities. These type of community events also can erase some of the tensions and perceptions among neighborhoods.

“We all have gifts,” he said. “We all have histories in our neighborhoods.”

In another gesture of cross-river cooperation, Quarter Barrel Brewery and Pub, located immediately west of the bridge at 103 Main St., and Municipal Brew Works, just east of the span at 20 High St., created a special brew for the event, called The Bridge.

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