Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023 |
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KILAUEA — Lee Sass had one of the best roles a volunteer could have on Saturday: Tour guide of the Kilauea Point Lighthouse.
With each 30-minute tour, Sass easily recited the history and significance of the lighthouse dedicated May 1, 1913.
“The next room up is the watch room, and that’s the key place,” he said.
But during the tours, he had to give a bit of bad news, too, which usually drew a collective groan from his followers.
“We can’t go up to the lens room itself,” he said. “New rules.”
Guests were allowed to walk up the stairs and glance at the lighthouse’s crown jewel, the Fresnel lens that during its glory days, made a complete revolution every 20 seconds, resulting in the signature double flash every 10 seconds.
Look, but don’t touch. Don’t even think about it.
“Don’t touch the lens whatever you do.” Sass said, smiling. “If you touch the lens, you die,” he added, which drew plenty of laughs.
Folks were in a festive mood Saturday for the official rededication of the Daniel K. Inouye Kilauea Point Lighthouse.
The iconic lighthouse was renamed in honor of the late senator at 5 p.m., and after several speeches, at 6:15 p.m., the beacon shined once again‚ its first time in three years, as a highlight to the $2 million restoration.
There was music, presentations and shuttle buses zipping people to and from on a mostly sunny day.
Young and old wanted to be part of the historic day.
“Look at the line right there,” said Jennifer Waipa, park ranger with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, pointing toward a large crowd waiting to enter the lighthouse. “We’re full for every tour,”
Visitors and Kaua’i natives turned out for the dedication. Most to see and tour the lighthouse. Some, to honor Inouye.
The Senator from Hawai‘i died last year at the age of 88. He was a World War II hero, served nearly 50 years in the Legislature, and was a member of the Watergate committee in 1973.
He was also a key player in the establishment of Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge in 1985 and a supporter of the lighthouse’s $2 million restoration that began in 2009.
He was a man known for patience, persistence and integrity.
“We came over because we wanted to tour the lighthouse,” said Martin Johnston, of O‘ahu. “But we also wanted to be here to honor of Daniel Inouye. He was a great man.”
Orlando Valdez, also of O‘ahu, joined his brother to tour the inside of the lighthouse for the first time.
“When I heard about the 100th anniversary I made it a point to come over,” he said.
He liked what he saw.
“It was really an interesting experience. The construction is really nice.”
His brother, Godwin Valdez of Lihu‘e, visited the lighthouse, decommissioned in 1976, for the second time after hearing of the rededication.
“I’ve been told about this for quite some time,” he said. “This is outstanding, celebrating the 100 years.”
Being inside the lighthouse, and getting a glance of the “biggest lamp in the world” was something he won’t forget.
“I think everybody should come and see it,” he said.
Waipa wasn’t surprised at Saturday’s interest in the three-year project to restore and rename the lighthouse, a place credited with saving lives.
“The lighthouse is an icon. It’s a Kaua‘i icon, it’s a Kilauea icon, and I think internationally. People know this place as a very special place,” she said. “With the views, the wildlife, the diversity we have in such a small area, it’s inspiring.”
The centennial celebration wraps up today with more free tours, a parade in Kilauea at 10:30 a.m., followed by a celebration in Kilauea Park.
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