Thousands gather to celebrate the Golden Gate Bridge

The dusky orange of the Golden Gate Bridge caught all the colors of the rainbow Sunday night, as lights cascaded from it into San Francisco Bay and a soaring pyrotechnic salute rained a glorious shower on the iconic span.

The 18-minute fireworks and light-beam show, partially loosed from the span's 746-foot towers, capped a day of festivities that celebrated the bridge's 75th anniversary.

After milling, cheerful crowds spent the day under sunswept blue skies, they watched as, on a fog-free night, a bowl of still-darkening night captured perfectly a hypnotic display of fiery flowers, parachutes, showers and rockets.

"Oh, my god, I couldn't believe it," said Katherine Hastings, 61, of Santa Rosa, who watched from Crissy Field.

Earlier, the closing sunset lit up the grand old dame of suspension bridges as if she were the star of the stage, which on Sunday, of course, as on so many other days, she was.

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