Celebrating Santa Monica Pier’s 100th birthday is a big event for Santa Monica. It’s so big that an event to begin the one-year countdown to the centennial celebration was held on September 9, 2008. Last week the celebration of the Pier’s centennial year began in earnest with the launch of a historical retrospective book, Santa Monica Pier, a Century of the Last Great Pleasure Pier by James Harris. Harris is the Santa Monica Pier historian and community event liaison for the Santa Monica Pier Restoration Corporation.At the February 18 morning book launch, Harris called the book a “portrayal of the three most fascinating things about the Pier – what it has been, what is now, and the people who have made it what it is today.” Actor/director Robert Redford who spent countless hours on the Pier when he was a child wrote the book’s foreword. He wrote, “Walking on the Pier, one can simultaneously experience the fantastic reality of the wind, waves, sand, and creaking wooden decks, and travel back in time to the simple pleasures of the Carousel and its timeless amusement.” Redford and singer Joan Baez are the honorary co-chairs for the Centennial steering committee.The morning’s festivities also included a scavenger hunt for the 100 students from the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District who attended the book launch at the Pier’s Carousel Hippodrome. They also learned more about the Pier’s history from the recently developed Pier curriculum. In the evening, a gala was held at the Pier’s Carousel Hippodrome where five people were honored with a “Santa Monica Pier Award” for their contributions to the Pier. The honorees were Joan Baez, Diana Cherman, Colleen Creedon, Marlene and Joanie Gordon, and Bill Spurgin. The Santa Monica Pier Awards had not been awarded since 1991, but awarding them will now become an annual event.These festivities also served as a time to announce some of the additional events that have been planned to celebrate the Pier’s Centennial. On April 18 there will be a sideshow at the Pier which will include a wide variety of performers. June 20 will be devoted to a celebration for kids that will include children’s entertainment and activities. On June 23 there will be a dance party to commemorate the memory of the Pier’s La Monica Ballroom. This event will include free dance instruction and live band performances of all types of music. On the Centennial Day, September 9, there will be celebrations both in the day and at night. A Centennial Day grand re-opening ceremony is planned with a 100-foot cake, and the night festivities will include a fireworks show. A Preserve America Grant and the City of Santa Monica helped fund the planning and development for the Santa Monica Pier Centennial.