Santa Monica Mayor Herb Katz began the official countdown for the Santa Monica Pier’s Centennial Celebration at a kickoff ceremony on the beach near the Pier on Tuesday, September 9.
Ben Franz-Knight, Executive Director of the Pier Restoration Corporation, told the gathered crowd that the Centennial Celebration “will look 100 years in the past and 100 years in the future by creating an atmosphere of fun, festivity, and fitness,” pulling together the historic, cultural, and recreational resources of the Pier.
He later added, “Starting in January 2009 with the launch of a brand new Pier history book – A Century on the Last of the Pleasure Piers – we will host a series of events leading up to a Grand Centennial Celebration on September 9, 2009, featuring the first major fireworks display at the Pier in over 14 years.” The celebration will also include placing several historic items back on the Pier, including the Carousel Onion Dome and a historic band organ.
The celebration is being planned and coordinated by the Centennial Steering Committee, which is composed of a cross-section of community members, local leaders, and business people. The honorary co-chairs of the Centennial are Joan Baez and Robert Redford. Franz-Knight read personal messages from each of them during his remarks. Baez’s message stated, “The music, color, and laughter [the Pier’s Merry-go-round] generates provided many of us a refuge from the storms, both personal and political, of the late Sixties and early Seventies.”
Redford’s message noted the Pier “is a landmark that has endured when so many others in Los Angeles have disappeared. To celebrate its Centennial anniversary, let’s all envision it with childlike joy and grown-up appreciation. It is a shared piece of history, right in our collective backyard.”
Attendees also had the opportunity to ride on the a prototype of a “Sand Tram” which is designed to run on the sand adjacent to the beach bike path and will be able to provide transportation between the beach parking lots to the south, the Pier, and the new Annenberg Beach Club to the north which is scheduled to open in 2009. Javier Luna, President of LTM Industries, Inc. of Oxnard, developed the prototype.
The Santa Monica Pier opened on September 9, 1909, originally to satisfy the City’s sanitation needs, but it soon became a big draw for the fishing and amusement communities. The Pier’s iconic neon sign was installed at the top of the Pier ramp in 1940 by the Santa Monica Businessmen’s Association to celebrate the opening of the Pier ramp. About four million visitors visit the Pier annually. Further information on the Centennial can be found at santamonicapier.org.