HANALEI — When Eugene Onio Punzal heard about the blessing of the Hanalei Pier Thursday afternoon, he wanted to be a part of it.
In his high school days, he surfed there, and he fished there, too. He and friends hung out on that pier.
“I have beautiful memories of my childhood, coming over here,” he said.
The Kauai man joined the ceremony, blowing the conch shell to signal the crowd it was time to gather under the new canopy at the pier’s end, offering a breathtaking view of the ocean.
“It’s built to last for my children and their children as well,” he said. “This has so much meaning for me. It’s amazing.”
Punzal was one of about 100 people who turned out to celebrate completion of the canopy.
Festivities included speeches, prayers, dance and everyone joining in to sing “Hanalei By Moonlight.”
The project was funded by the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay, which raised nearly $190,000 that not only paid for the construction, but created an account to provide perpetual maintenance for the famous pier that’s been part of Hanalei for more than a century.
The Rotary Club took on the fundraiser for the renovation after seeing the pier deteriorate and learning the state might have to tear it down because it had become a safety hazard.
“A good wind could have blown it over,” said Rotarian George Corrigan.
He said it took more than two years, starting in 2011, to raise the money. They started with an event that netted $1,500, and the donations kept coming, locally and from throughout the country.
Not a big surprise, he said, because the pier is an “iconic landmark.”
It’s one of the most photographed places on Kauai, has been in movies, including “The Descendants” and “South Pacific,” and is a National Historic Landmark.
More important, said Corrigan, is how the pier is part of Hanalei and the lives of its residents.
“It means something to everyone on the North Shore,” he said.
Even those not from the North Shore.
Jeff Larsen of Denver, Colo., was vacationing with family when he saw the ceremony going on, and decided to watch.
He had heard of the Hanalei Pier, he said, while checking out Kauai before visiting for the first time.
“It’s a beautiful place,” he said.
Corrigan was “filled with pride” when he looked upon the pier Thursday.
“I’m just so happy. It’s wonderful,” he said.
State Sen. Ron Kouchi had high praise for the Rotary Club and its initiative to build canopy and save the pier.
“How hard is it to partner with somebody who says we’ll go raise the money and fix it if you just give us permission,” he said, drawing laughs from the crowd.
Even Gov. Neil Abercrombie remarked on the good feelings in the air.
“You should see the joy that’s on everybody’s faces,” he said, adding, “we may stay here a long time.”
Rep. Derek Kawakami spoke of treading water near the pier as he watched his daughter dip her toes in the ocean.
The pier, he said, is a special place, “the way it looks, the feel, the pulse of it.”
“These are special memories I hold near and dear to my heart,” he said.
Ward Thompson, owner of Ward Thompson Construction, which completed the pier project, said it started as a repair job. But the deterioration of the canopy was so extensive, they tore it down in December and started new.
The pier was completely reopened for the first time since mid-March just a few weeks ago.
Early estimates for the job were between $400,000 to $700,000.
It was completed for less than $150,000.
Thompson said they took it on as a labor of love.
“It’s just so beautiful to see a new pier back in place. And everybody’s enjoying it,” Thompson said.
Tony Motta, Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay president, said “The big thing is, we did this for the community.”
The Hanalei Pier, he said, is again standing strong.
“We brought it back to its full glory,” he said.
• Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or email@example.com.