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1983: Christo's army surrounds 10 islands

This story from the Miami Herald archives appeared on May 7, 1983.

With Commandant Christo setting a furious pace, an army of red eyes and pink shirts swept across Biscayne Bay Friday, leaving 10 of the artist's 11 islands glowing in flowing coral skirts.

By this afternoon, Christo aides said, the last pine-covered island should be surrounded with hot-pink plastic and the seven- mile island chain completed at last

"It is more difficult than we thought," said Ted Dougherty, supreme commander of the artist Christo's 30-month project to encircle the islands in 6.5-million square feet of undulating, pink plastic. "We've got to give the workers a rest, but we'll start again about 7 a.m.," he said.

While last-minute work continued, many South Florida residents and tourists already were plotting weekend strategies to view the glittering bay spectacle. Beginning today, a group of Miami businessmen is offering tourists and residents a land, sea and air view of the completed project. For $33 per person, sightseers will get a 15-minute ride above the Surrounded Islands, a 45-minute bus ride over causeways near the islands and a 90-minute boat tour through Biscayne Bay.

Anyone wishing to make reservations — which must be done 24 hours in advance —- should call either 949-3244 or 379-5119. The tours are scheduled to leave from Chalk's International Airways on Dodge Island at 10 a.m., noon and 6 p.m. daily and will continue until May 18.

Christo aides, expecting heavy traffic along roads offering good views of the project, have hired two off-duty Miami police officers to direct weekend traffic along the 79th Street Causeway. The two motorcycle policemen will be along the causeway each day between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Some residents weren't waiting for the last island to be surrounded before getting a glimpse. All day Friday, hundreds of Dade County art students and teachers flocked to the 14th-floor penthouse of the new Office of Bay Point, 4770 Biscayne Blvd., to see the islands. Armed with sketch pads and cameras, the students rotated in one-hour shifts, standing before a bank of windows.

Ivan Kristeff, 64, was born in Christo's native Bulgaria, but now lives in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. He and his wife, Brigitte, journeyed to the 79th Street Causeway to get a peek at his countrymen's work-in-progress. They liked what they saw.

"It takes a lot of courage to do something like this," said Ivan. "It's like Einstein said: 'Imagination is more important than knowledge."' Said Brigitte: "This will be just like Running Fence [another Christo project] was in California. Before it was up, everybody complained. But once it was finished, everybody liked it."

No one, perhaps, is more anxious to finish than Christo and his troops. This evening, a Miami disco intends to celebrate the project's completion with a wall-to-wall, hot-pink bash for Christo, his wife, Jeanne-Claude, dozens of boat captains, island crew chiefs and all the workers in the effort.

Between 7:30 pm. and 10 p.m., the Biscayne Boulevard disco employes, wrapped in pink cellophane, will offer pink champagne to 400 invited guests dancing beneath a cloud of pink balloons. Drink in the Pink From These Parks

The best spots for viewing Christo's Surrounded Islands project are from public parks along the water. Prime viewing areas include:

Pelican Harbor Park, 1280 NE 79th St. Spectacular view of three islands.

Margaret Pace Park, between NE 17th Terrace and NE 20th Street. Almost directly across from southernmost of the three islands.

Morningside Park, 750 NE 55th Ter. Excellent view of Island No. 2 and No. 3 from boat-launch ramp in park's southeast corner.

Small park along N. Bayshore Drive from NE 94th to 96th Streets.

All views of the islands, which will be in place for two weeks, are free and best seen at dawn and sunset. Parking along causeway shoulders and stopping on causeways are prohibited.