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Santa Monica Pier Ferris Wheel Shows Off Its New Colors
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Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

 

By Zina Markevicius
Special to The Lookout

May 27, 2016 -- The bright new lights on the Santa Monica Pier's iconic Ferris wheel displayed a waving American flag against the night sky for the grand finale of Pacific Park's 20th anniversary celebration Thursday night.

When the smoke cleared from the accompanying fireworks, four guests who gathered for the unveiling of its new $1 million lighting system huddled together, smiling for a selfie.

Santa Monica Mayor Tony Vazquez, Pier Corporation Chair and former mayor Judy Abdo, Pacific Park CEO Mary Ann Powell and Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks, who served as the enthusiastic photographer, had all been around when the wheel started turning two decades ago.

Vazquez, who served on the council from 1990 to 1994, recalled the initial opposition when the amusement park was first proposed.

Now hailed as a great success story and winner of multiple awards, Pacific Park has hosted more than 25 million visitors with 8.7 million riders on the Ferris wheel, park officials said.

May 27, 2016 -- Pier New Lights Celebration. Photos by Zina Markevicius for the Santa Monica Lookout. May 27, 2016 -- Pier New Lights Celebration. Photos by Zina Markevicius for the Santa Monica Lookout.
Thursday's light show – which came three weeks after the wheel went mostly dark for the installation of 160,000 new energy-efficient LED lights – featured a dynamic display of colors, shapes and design, accompanied by upbeat instrumental music.

One design resembled the face of Winnie the Pooh with a golden background and black nose at the center, and in abstract shapes colors blended from one to the next.

The computerized lighting system features faster speeds and custom design capabilities. The “really cool part,” according to Pacific Park’s vice president Jeff Klocke, is the increased range of colors, from 8 options to a whopping 16.7 million (“Pacific Park Wheel in Santa Monica to Go Dark,” May 6, 2016).

Santa Monica’s Ferris wheel is the first and only solar powered ferris wheel in the world.

For the first public show of the new lighting system, small fireworks added to the drama and sparked the biggest reaction from the crowd. With the central section of the pier closed for half an hour, about 150 onlookers watched from the west end of the wooden structure with hundreds more at its base.

Like the ceremonial banner break of the new light rail service to Santa Monica last week, the debut of the Ferris wheel lighting system was primarily designed for the media and officials.

Besides the five-minute show, there was little for the public to enjoy earlier in the evening. Pacific Park sat dark, closed as of 4 p.m., and the Ferris wheel itself opened at 9 p.m. for a night of free rides.

One passerby noted the small reception area set aside for about 60 officials and guests and asked, “What’s going on? Is someone getting married?”

After the light show, the pier slid back to its normal evening flow of families with small children heading home alongside a few fishermen. Couples holding hands lingered at the railings and stared into the dark ocean. The air smelled like salt and churros, and a ragged musician strummed a guitar singing a Cat Stevens song.

Only a few groups headed determinedly toward the barricades to wait for the reopening of the Ferris wheel -- a gaggle of teenage girls with long hair and short shorts, and not far behind, a bunch of scruffy teenage boys carrying skateboards.

The iconic Ferris with its new lights was their destination.


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