They made it official on Tuesday. Two days after the wrap-up of a successful and well-attended Mullet Festival, the first since the passing of Stan Gober last June, another gathering was held in his honor.
Under a canopy set up at the northern end of the County Road 92 bridge, a crowd assembled to rechristen the span, formerly called the Goodland Bridge, as the Stan Gober Memorial Bridge. Stan, the larger-than-life founder and owner of Stan's Idle Hour in Goodland, was honored for his impact on his community, and all the effort he put into a myriad of worthwhile causes.
Approximately 75 family members, friends, Goodland residents, along with print and television media, came to dedicate the span and honor its namesake with words and music, in a brief ceremony that began at 10:30 a.m. Behind the head table, a replica of the sign that had already been erected at the foot of the bridge was displayed.
As innkeeper, raconteur, stand-up comedian, singer, songwriter, and charity fund-raiser, Stan Gober cast a long shadow over the fishing village of Goodland. Speakers included Stan's son Steve Gober, who has taken over management of the family restaurant business, Goodland Civic Association president Joanie Fuller, and Walter Kane, who spearheaded the petition drive that resulted in the bridge's renaming, spoke of Stan and the legacy he left. But master of ceremonies Donna Fiala, District 1 County Commissioner, summed it up in the fewest words.
"Stan put Goodland on the map," she said. "I heard over and over again that Goodland wouldn't be Goodland today, if it weren't for Stan." Fiala and Kane noted the outpouring of support that came in response to the idea of renaming the bridge after Stan.
"We needed 1,000 signatures, and we got 1,500" without any difficulty, said Kane. "People asked to let them sign, and be a part of a lasting monument to the man they loved." Fiala pointed out a picture of Stan Gober, "the consummate Democrat," with Republican Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, John Boehner, who was a frequent visitor to Stan's when in the area.
Steve Gober became emotional in talking about what the bridge dedication means to him.
"Wow. To have a bridge named after your dad. What can you say." He said he would be aware of the honor accorded his father "every time I drive over the bridge to Stan's."
Marco Fire-Rescue Chief Mike Murphy provided the invocation, saying, "When travelers reach the top of this bridge, they are awed by the beauty of your creation. We thank you for bringing our brother Stan across this bridge" all those years ago. Murphy's department also provided a "big flag," flying from the top of the extended arm of the MIFD's tower truck.
Patriotism was on display Tuesday morning, with additional flags and red, white and blue bunting decorating the open-air tent. Love of country was about the only thing that Stan didn't joke about. The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Stan's grandchildren, an extended version of the National Anthem was played to start the ceremony, and the proceedings were concluded by Jeff Hilt, Stan's longtime musical collaborator, playing and singing "God Bless America."
After the ceremony, Steve Gober and two of his sons walked over to take a closer look at the actual sign on the bridge that will memorialize their father and grandfather. As everyone who knows of Judge S.S. Jolley only because of crossing over the bridge that bears his name can attest, it's a great way to honor someone, and ensure their memory lives on.
And now, just as Stan Gober put Goodland on the map, Goodland has returned the favor, and put Stan on the map – literally.