Statue of Liberty Plaza dedicated as "community gathering place"

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The statue and pedestal were draped with an olive-colored parachute silk, loosely tied with blue twine.

Saturday afternoon, the sky was blue, the sun was warm, and the breeze was cool - perfect weather.

The tide was high and the 44-foot Yankee Clipper anchored off the boardwalk at Alki. The fireboat Leschi sprayed fans of water in the bay.

Under one green canopy, people sold more commemorative bricks, available for purchase until the end of the year, for installation next summer. Boy scouts armed with maps helped people locate their bricks arrayed around the pedestal.

Harald Sund had found a couple dozen scouts who were at the original dedication. About a dozen attended Saturday, wearing names tags saying, "I was there."

The four Sea Scouts who unveiled the statue in 1952 sat in red folding chairs on the edge of the plaza, with their wives and their sons and their grandsons.

Bob Shomaker wore a black cap stitched with "Yankee Clipper."

Ron McFarlane had driven down from LaConner for the event.

Neil Swenson wore a jacket and a diamond-patterned tie, pointing to people with his black cane.

Farrell Brown watched from where he sat on a new bench. He had been released from the hospital only the day before, recovering after a tree limb fell on his head.

John Kelly, who was their mate on the same Yankee Clipper in 1952, sat at the end of the row with his Sea Scouts.

Seven troops of scouts from West Seattle were represented in the color guard. The elder scouts stood with their hands or hats over the hearts. They recited the Pledge of Allegiance, and sang under their breath with the Star Spangled Banner.

This time, scouts Kyle Van Vleet and his sister Megan, unveiled the statue. Kyle is 11, a Boy Scout with Troop 284; Megan is 9, with Brownies 3033. They stood with Sund and Shomaker at the pedestal. The other three Sea Scouts and Kelly remained sitting.

Kyle and Megan pulled on the twine but it caught. They looked to Sund. He reached up and grabbed a corner of the silk, and the fabric flowed off into Megan's arms.

The crowd cheered.

Libby Carr, co-chair of the Seattle Statue of Liberty Plaza Project committee, thanked everyone. She thanked Chris Ezell and Matt Hutchins for their thousand hours of architectural work. She thanked Patrick Donahue as the Parks project manager. She thanked Kenadar for inscribing the bricks, thanked the brick layers' for their back breaking work, thanked the carpenters, thanked those who poured concrete, thanked the major donors, the bench donors, the landscape donors, the brick donors....

"I want to recognize ownership," she said. "We all own this plaza, and the love of liberty."

"This is for our children and our grandchildren," said Paul Carr, also co-chair of the fund-raising committee, "to tell them that we still value our freedom and our constitution."

Mike Gregoire, husband of the governor, couldn't attend. He was attending a funeral of a soldier from Spokane, who was killed in Iraq.

Tom Rasmussen, city council member and resident of Alki, noted the Statue of Liberty in New York also had its difficulties. A gift from France to the United States for its centennial, that statue wasn't dedicated until 10 years later, after Joseph Pulitzer's challenge to raise money for its pedestal.

The challenge here was not wanting to put a new statue back on the old pedestal.

"We have done much, much better," Rasmussen said.

Christopher Williams, deputy superintendent with Seattle Parks and Recreation, commended Paul and Libby Carr for raising the funds to build the new plaza and pedestal.

"We started with $50,000 in the budget," he said. "Imagine how little that would have built.

"Instead, we are left with a plaza that is truly a community gathering place."

Matthew G. Miller is a freelance writer living in the Admiral District. He may be contacted through wseditor@robinsonnews.com.

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