Refurbished Statue of Liberty Reopened to Public
NEW YORK (AP) _ The Statue of Liberty, glittering centerpiece for four days of Hollywood- styl e hoopla, became the people’s monument again Saturday as schoolchildren helped Nancy Reagan reopen it to the public after its $66 million facelift.
About 10,000 people toured the statue, filling Liberty Island to capacity and forcing officials to stop bringing tourists to the island at 4 p.m., an hour early.
A crowd estimated by police at 800,000 turned out in Central Park on Saturday night for a free New York Philharmonic concert featuring arias performed by opera stars Placido Domingo, Marilyn Horne and others.
A thundering cascade of red, white and blue fireworks erupted over the park in the concert’s finale following a rousing rendition of ″America the Beautiful.″
Earlier, four blimps glided over the Hudson River in a race won by a red and green vessel owned by the Fuji Co., which edged Resorts International’s craft by 30 seconds.
Ships and ferries dotted New York Harbor, the scene of a spectacular Fourth of July fireworks display that celebrated the statue’s 100 years as a symbol of freedom for millions of immigrants.
Saturday’s modest ceremony, a ribbon-cutting by Mrs. Reagan and a visit by American and French students, formally reopened the statue, closed since May 29, 1984, for the restoration. Liberty Island has been closed since June 23, 1985.
″We want to thank each and every student who contributed to this great moment in history,″ Mrs. Reagan said at the reopening, where the children presented her with a bouquet of red roses.
Mrs. Reagan led the students across a red, white and blue carpet and into the statue, where she and two of the children rode an elevator ride to the statue’s crown.
There, their pictures were snapped by photographers in a Navy helicopter hovering just feet from the statue’s face.
Mrs. Reagan closed the ceremony by reading a poem written by Brad Travis, a 10-year-old fourth-grader from Bastrop, La.
″Oh, Lady of Liberty, teach me to see, where I need to go, and what to be; Let me be like you, tall and proud and free, Our Statue, teacher of Liberty,″ she read.
Amanda Worth of Trenton, N.J., one of the first to climb the 171 steps to the stop of the statue, said, ″I almost died going up, but when we got there it was worth it. ... The view of the harbor - the ships and everything - it was just great.″
The first in the line for the ferry trip to Liberty Island was Paul Weisman, 24, of Derbyshire, England, a cardboard box factory employee who had waited for 40 hours.
″I had to see it this morning or not at all,″ explained Weisman, who said he had a 7 p.m. flight home.
All the statue’s visitors left by 6:15 p.m., but officials had a few problems from 12 people who claimed they did not not have enough time to see everything before the tours were cut off.
″They became adamant and refused to leave,″ said Manny Strumpf, a spokesman for the National Park Service. ″They were vociferous and a bit uncooperative. They were given a quick tour of the island and left.″
But, overall, the crowds that jammed Lower Manhattan on Friday in what was billed as the world’s largest street party failed to show up Saturday in similar numbers.
The Coast Guard said half the 30,000 private pleasure boats that filled the harbor for Friday’s fireworks and ceremonies had left.
Crowds toured the majestic tall ships at berths along the Hudson River and the harbor, inspected 26 ″documents of liberty,″ like original copies of the Magna Charta, on display inside Federal Hall.
Tourists besieged visiting sailors for autographs and donned green, foam- rubber Statue of Liberty crowns as they enjoyed the food, fun and entertainment at a 50-square-block street fair in Manhattan.
Police reported only a few arrests for what they termed ″Liberty-related activities″ over the weekend - mostly the revelers were a peaceful, good- humored lot.
Children set the tone as they took the maiden voyage to the statue, ending the hiatus in public visits. Mrs. Reagan cut a red, white and blue ribbon as a band softly played ″America the Beautiful,″ and doves flew from Liberty Island.
Two children, one American and one French, commemorated the gift of the statue from the French people by reading their winning entries in a Liberty essay contest.
″The Statue of Liberty means hope, freedom and peace, not just in the United States but all over the world,″ said Jason Verhelst, a 10-year-old from Madison, Wis. ″The Statue of Liberty is a man-made sign of hope that one day we will have world peace.″
″Liberty, justice ... flourish here on American soil, which took a living spark from Europe,″ said Laurence Lemoine, a 17-year-old from San Germain-en- Laye, France.
The four-day salute to the statue ends Sunday with ceremonies at Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands in New Jersey. The grand finale of the event, staged by Hollywood impressario David Wolper, is still secret.