125th Anniversary Celebration for Statue of Liberty Blends History and High-Tech

The old and the new. (Top photo) The Statue of Liberty appears through the fog and smoke as a flotilla of boats pass in celebration of her dedication on October 28, 1886. NPS photo. (Bottom photo) The view from one of the new webcams. Image courtesy of EarthCam.

The Statue of Liberty celebrates a significant anniversary on October 28 with a day-long special event that acknowledges Lady Liberty's history…and launches some high-technology additions to the site. Five new webcams high atop the Statue will offer dramatic views around the clock.

This Friday's event commemorates the 125th anniversary of the dedication of the Statue, and the original celebration was a big one indeed. On October 28, 1886, New York City welcomed the Lady with its first ticker-tape parade and a flotilla of nearly 300 vessels sailed to Bedloe's Island (now Liberty Island) to greet her.

"The Statue has evolved in meaning since she first graced our shores 125 years ago", said David Luchsinger, Superintendent of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. "She began as a symbol of friendship between France and the United States, evolved into a symbol of our great country, and is known today as an international symbol of freedom for people everywhere. This coming Friday is an opportunity to celebrate her complete legacy."

The main ceremony will take place from 10 a.m. to noon and will feature remarks by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, who will present a gift of friendship to the government of France echoing the French people's gift of the Statue in 1886. Noted singer and pianist Michael Feinstein, Academy-Award-nominated actress Sigourney Weaver, vocalist Capathia Jenkins, Tony Award-winning actress Anika Noni Rose, cabaret artist Gay Marshall and students from the Brooklyn High School of the Arts will lend their talents to the ceremony as well.

A small flotilla of government, commercial and private vessels will offer a salute to the Statue at the close of the ceremony, evoking the 1886 "water parade" that attended her original dedication.

"Since the day of her dedication, the Statue of Liberty has greeted immigrants in search of a better life to America's shores. In honor of her status as a symbol of enduring hope and welcome, 125 immigrants will become new U.S. Citizens on Liberty Island the morning of Oct. 28, before the park opens. The citizenship candidates come from more than 40 countries, including Albania, Senegal, China, Italy, Haiti, Honduras, Croatia and the Dominican Republic."

A big patriotic event calls for fireworks and this one shouldn't disappoint. The pyrotechnics are scheduled to begin at about 7:45pm, and will be ignited from two barges flanking the national monument. "In addition," notes a park spokesperson, "for the first time in 25-years, shells and effects will also take to the sky from Liberty Island, surrounding the Statue with brilliant color, light and sound. Macy's synchronized, 12-minute salute will be choreographed to a patriotic musical score featuring songs including 'God Bless America' and 'Stars & Stripes Forever.'

"The highlight of the fireworks show will be the original song, 'Gift of Light,' written by Grammy-winning composer Doug Katsaros and Emmy-winning lyricist and Macy's creative director William Schermerhorn. The English and French rendition, sung by Anika Noni Rose and Gay Marshall, will celebrate the Statue as a gift of friendship from France to the United States. Local spectators are encouraged to tune-in to 1010 WINS radio to hear a live simulcast of the score as the fireworks ignite the sky."

The NPS theme for the 125th anniversary events is "Honor History, Envision the Future," and part of that future includes some high-tech additions to the Statue.

Five new webcams high atop the Statue will provide new views of Ellis and Governors islands and New York harbor, plus a stunning fish-eye view looking down from the torch at the top of the statue, Liberty Island, and the harbor. The cameras, which will be on-line 24-hours a day, will also offer a chance to monitor progress on the construction of the new Freedom Tower at the World Trade Center.

The cameras were donated to the National Park Service by EarthCam Inc., a company that manages webcams at numerous sites across the globe. They will "go live" during the ceremony on October 28, and can then be viewed on the park website. Brian Cury, the founder of EarthCam, says "The cameras put viewers on the balcony of the torch and high above the crown."

If you'd like to see some samples of the webcam images, you'll find them on the park's Facebook page at this link.

"The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc. is grateful to EarthCam for its generosity in contributing its cameras and equipment to bring never-before-seen views of Liberty Island and New York Harbor to the general public," said Stephen A. Briganti, Foundation President and CEO. "The Foundation is delighted to be hosting these "bird's eye views" from Lady Liberty's torch, bringing The Lady LIVE to you, wherever you are, 24-7... It's a breathtaking view!"

Anyone planning a trip to Liberty Islands needs to be aware of other changes that get underway the day following the ceremony.

On October 29, 2011, all interior spaces of the Statue of Liberty will close while upgrades are made to the 125 year old pedestal and the 200 year old fort base from which the statue rises. Liberty Island itself will remain open during the work, which is expected to take about one year.

When completed, the interior will have new stairways and elevators, and water and mechanical systems will also be upgraded. A park spokesperson notes that "since the work is being done inside, views of Lady Liberty from land and sea will remain unobstructed. National Park Rangers will remain on site to greet, educate and inspire thousands visiting each day."

Information to plan a visit to the Statue of Liberty National Monument, including details about ferry tickets and operating hours, is available on the park website.

Comments

It is a fitting tribute, on Lady Liberty's 125th Anniversary, to have the hardy participants of Occupy Wall Street "standing watch" a few miles north, across the harbor. If Lady Liberty could talk, I'm sure she'd tell them: Thank You..for keeping the torch of liberty burning brightly; Thank you..for helping to renew the freedoms and ideals upon which this great country was founded. She'd be proud!

Happy 125th anniversary, Lady Liberty! In light of the Statue's 125th anniversary, I decided to calculate its value in scrap copper and the results are shocking: http://bit.ly/vEmKgf