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Long stretches of tables were positioned down the Gervais Street Bridge for the fundraiser dinner. Allen Wallace photos.

In what’s rapidly become one of Columbia’s most popular fall events, the Gervais Street Bridge made its annual temporary transformation into the area’s largest outdoor restaurant on Sunday.

The fifth annual Bridge Dinner, organized by Soda City Friends (the nonprofit arm of Soda City market), drew a sellout crowd of more than 1,000 to enjoy a meal and live music above the Congaree River.

“It’s the only time we’ve gotten our money’s worth for a meal even before the food gets here,” said Mary Cumming. “It’s such a unique experience.”

Flat Out Strangers and the Station Seven Band performed before and during the three course dinner, served up by Southern Way Catering along with beer, wine and cocktails provided by various local businesses.

Proceeds from the Bridge Dinner go to local charities, particularly those related to the preservation of Columbia’s rivers. This year’s beneficiaries are The River Alliance, West Columbia Beautification Foundation, Canoeing for Kids, Harvest Hope Food Bank - Columbia, South Carolina and Serve & Connect.

The event raised more than $180,000 in its first four years. Totals for 2019 were not immediately available Sunday.

The bridge was closed to traffic all day Sunday to allow time to set up and break down the event.

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