Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Locals gather for final toast to the St. Petersburg Pier

ST. PETERSBURG — It was a going-away party of sorts, a Saturday evening social to say goodbye. Most of the guests were locals, some were natives.

With a cool sea breeze tempering the heat as the sun fell to the horizon, hundreds strolled about the top of the St. Petersburg Pier with drinks in hand, waiting to bid goodbye to a local landmark.

The mood was neither somber, nor totally joyous. The purpose was not political, though chatter about the Pier's future was inevitable here, a mere two weeks away from the day of its scheduled closing.

On this Saturday evening, the theme was one of celebration as people gathered for what was billed as a "Toast to the Pier."

"It's a nice way to send it off," said Ester Venouziou, director of LocalShops1, a coalition of local businesses that organized the event. "We're not for the Lens or anti-Lens, but it's definitely been very divisive."

Amid the crowd of about 200, there were those nostalgic for the Pier as it is now and those supportive of the proposed Lens design, which is slated to be built in its place.

"I think it's cool that in my lifetime I'm going to get to see three Piers," said Ron Stein, who grew up in Tampa and remembered the days before the inverted pyramid was built. "It's time for a new beginning," he said. "The pyramid is interesting, but it's not iconic. People don't come here to see it. I think the Lens has that potential."

The evening toast was preceded by a daylong event featuring the work of local artists, a water ski show, and music from a live band. As people gathered on the top floor, they were treated to specialized cocktail drinks, courtesy of three of the Pier's restaurants.

At 7 p.m., longtime local news anchor Arch Deal, who donned a tuxedo amid a sea of T-shirts and shorts, took to a microphone.

He spoke of the Pier's history, from the time it was established in 1889, to its days as a casino known as the "Million Dollar Pier." Since the inverted pyramid opened in 1973, he said, 64 million people have walked through its doors.

Deal said he is concerned for those employed at the Pier's businesses, but said he is not opposed to the Lens.

"I'm always optimistic," Deal said. "If it comes out and works great, that's wonderful."

At 7:50, as the crowd readied for the final toast by filling champagne glasses, bagpiper Josh Adams stood before them and belted out two celebratory tunes.

A series of speakers took to the microphone to share their thoughts on the Pier and their memories of it. Amateur photographer Velva Lee Heraty spoke of her collection of photos depicting downtown St. Petersburg. In all of her photos, she said, she could not find a single one that didn't have part of the Pier in it.

"The thing that I want to acknowledge is that the Pier has been a significant asset to the imagery of the city," Heraty said. "I'm sorry to see it go, but go it must."

"No!" someone shouted.

"Stop the Lens!" said someone else.

Heraty reminded them that the Toast was not political.

And in the end, it was not.

With the final rays of sunlight glinting off the water behind her, Susan Robertson, the Pier's marketing director, took to the microphone for the final toast. The crowd raised their glasses.

"To the Pier," she said.

Locals gather for final toast to the St. Petersburg Pier 05/18/13 [Last modified: Saturday, May 18, 2013 11:02pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Iraq's Kurds vote on independence, raising regional fears

    World

    IRBIL, Iraq — Iraqi Kurds voted Monday in a landmark referendum on supporting independence, a move billed by the Kurdish leadership as an exercise in self-determination but viewed as a hostile act by Iraq's central government. Neighboring Turkey even threatened a military response.

    People celebrate Monday after voting closed in a referendum on independence in Irbil, Iraq.
  2. North Korean diplomat says Trump has 'declared war'

    War

    UNITED NATIONS — North Korea's top diplomat said Monday that President Donald Trump's weekend tweet was a "declaration of war" and North Korea has the right to retaliate by shooting down U.S. bombers, even in international airspace.

    North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, center, speaks outside the U.N. Plaza Hotel in New York on Monday.
  3. No toll lanes north of downtown Tampa in three of four interstate proposals

    Transportation

    TAMPA — Express lanes may not be coming to downtown Tampa after all. Or at least not to the stretch of Interstate 275 that goes north through Bearss Avenue.

    Seminole Heights resident Kimberly Overman discusses the new interstate options with V.M. Ybor resident Chris Vela (left), Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp and HNTB consultant Chloe Coney during a Tampa Bay Express meeting Monday night at the Barrymore Hotel. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON  |  Times]
  4. Pinellas grants St. Pete's request to add millions to pier budget

    Local Government

    Times Staff Writer

    The Pinellas County Commission has granted St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman's request to dedicate millions more toward the city's new pier.

    The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday  voted 7-1 to appropriate $17.6 million for the over-water portion of the Pier District. This is a rendering of what the new Pier District could look like. [Courtesy of St. Petersburg]
  5. Man injured when small helicopter crashes into Odessa home

    Accidents

    ODESSA — A small manned helicopter crashed into the roof of a house in northwest Hillsborough County on Monday, injuring a pilot, officials said.

    Rescuers respond to a crash of a small helicopter on the roof of a home in the Odessa area on Monday. [Hillsborough County Fire Rescue]