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Why you'll see sheep crossing Arizona's London Bridge this Saturday

Why you'll see sheep crossing Arizona's London Bridge this Saturday
London Bridge in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., will host its first sheep crossing Saturday to celebrate the bridge's arrival in the desert a half-century ago. (Lake Havasu City Convention & Visitors Bureau)

Come Saturday, Arizona’s Lake Havasu City will embark on a medieval British tradition that involves driving a herd of sheep over London Bridge. It’s part of a celebration to mark a half-century since the 19th-century bridge was bought and 40 years since the surrounding city was incorporated.

Lake Havasu City Mayor Mark Nexsen will lead the sheep, which are on loan from a local 4H youth program, with London’s 690th Lord Mayor Charles Bowman. It’s the first time livestock will have set hoof on the bridge that once spanned the Thames River in London.

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Sheep crossings date back hundreds of years when “freemen” were afforded the privilege of bringing their tools and animals into London without paying a tax. Nexsen became a freeman in a London ceremony last May, and the city decided to adopt the tradition to mark its own anniversary.

The event begins at 10 a.m. when Gov. Doug Ducey presents a proclamation to the city. The crossing begins at 11 a.m. and is expected to last about a half-hour. It’s free and open to the public.

British television personality Alan Titchmarsh drives sheep across London Bridge during the annual Sheep Drive in central London on Sept. 30.
British television personality Alan Titchmarsh drives sheep across London Bridge during the annual Sheep Drive in central London on Sept. 30. (Will Oliver / EPA-EFE/ REX)

London held its own sheep crossing in September over its London Bridge, which opened in 1973. The annual event also raised money for charity.

Now about those London Bridges. The one in Arizona, built in 1831, was bought from the British, packed up and delivered to the desert in 1968, where it was carefully reassembled. Fun fact: The lamps on the bridge are made from melted-down cannons used by Napoleon’s army, according to Lake Havasu City Convention & Visitors Bureau. The bridge didn’t open to the public until 1971.

The resort city around Lake Havasu and the new landmark grew and incorporated in 1978. The bridge and surrounding resort draws 835,000 visitors a year, the state’s second-most popular attraction after the Grand Canyon.

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