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Miami Beach Celebrates Centennial with 100 Hours of Free Events

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To stage a centennial celebration, officials here sought local talent to highlight their commitment to creativity and sense of community.

Since this is Miami Beach, that local talent includes international music stars Barry Gibb and Andrea Bocelli.

Both singers said they arrived here like a lot of tourists, seeking sunshine in the middle of winter.

"Coming from New York, where it was so cold, very cold, I arrived here and it was a beautiful sun, and I said, 'OK, I buy a house here,'" said Bocelli at a rooftop event last month announcing their participation in the 100-hour celebration event that starts March 22.

MIAMI BEACH HISTORY
The city was officially incorporated March 26, 1915. A 1920s land boom spurred Miami Beach to grow, particularly a string of small hotels along Ocean Drive.

Those hotels were commandeered during World War II for Army Air Corps training, but the Rat Pack and Jackie Gleason joined tourists who returned to Miami Beach in the 1950s and 1960s. While "Miami Vice" was filmed here in the 1980s, the city was in decline until a 1990s rebirth of South Beach's club scene and Art Deco district.

A photography exhibition exploring the city's development from mangrove swamps to an international community is on display at Miami Beach City Hall through May 29.

South Beach may have a reputation for a year-round spring-break atmosphere, but Gibb said he stayed here because of the family-friendly atmosphere.

He arrived in Miami Beach in the mid-1970s hoping to make a comeback album, and he and his wife found a home where they would raise five children and seven grandchildren. His beach tip: a new "bark beach" at the city's north end where dogs can share the sand with their humans.

"This is the greatest place on earth to raise a family. It's steadfast, it's a stable society," said Gibb.

100-HOUR SHINDIG
The centennial celebration highlights the things that make Miami Beach so appealing: fashion, flashy cars, fitness, diversity and celebrities.

Starting March 22, a series of free events on the sands of South Beach will include fitness demonstrations, car and fashion shows, a daylong beach party, a wedding for 100 couples and a naturalization ceremony for 100 new U.S. citizens.

Gibb and Bocelli will be joined by Gloria Estefan, Wyclef Jean, Flo Rida and other artists for a March 26 concert on the beach to close out the festivities. Tickets for premium reserved seating range from $55 to $525.

ENVIRONMENT
Like a lot of aging beauties, Miami Beach has had some work done to keep up appearances. Diligent preservation has kept the city's Art Deco buildings looking bright amid more recent construction booms.

City officials also are using the centennial celebration to highlight efforts to preserve the city for the future. Miami Beach is spending hundreds of millions over the next several years to install storm water pumps to keep rising sea levels from swamping low-lying streets.

The city last year extended a ban on Styrofoam and other plastic foam products on its beaches to all city parks, events, buildings and sidewalk cafes to keep pollutants out of its waterways.

"We're also going to celebrate our future by bringing people's awareness to climate change and sea level rise. It's not just about our past hundred years," said Mayor Philip Levine.

Online:
Miami Beach 100th: www.miamibeach100.com
Free events marking the centennial begin March 22.


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