Thousands of people took the drive along Interstate 5 to the new Central Terminal B at Sacramento International Airport on Sunday and oohed and aahed at the open house.
The $1 billion glass-and-steel terminal, which opens Thursday, doubles as both art gallery and a gateway to the capital.
At center stage is Lawrence Argent's 56-foot-long red rabbit sculpture. It's one of a dozen pieces of airport art that make up the biggest public art project in Sacramento history.
Visitors experienced the eerily soothing sounds of the "Living Lenses" computerized music system. And they quickly learned that the people mover, the 45-second shuttle between the terminal and Concourse B, requires a prudent handhold.
"My Lord!" declared Erma Walker, a longtime Sacramento resident visiting with friends during the daylong terminal preview. "Does that move people, or what? I'm very impressed."
For hours, the visitors came and went like dignitaries at a reception.
It was a curious blend of people without luggage and security agents with wide smiles. All were moving at a tempo more theater stroll than boarding gate dash.
Kerry Kaemph-Wood of Roseville thought the experience would be good for 10-month-old Rula, a yellow Labrador retriever in training as a service dog.
"She had never been on a people mover before," said Kaemph-Wood, a puppy raiser with Canine Companions.
Rula's reaction? She took baby steps backward as the shuttle shot forward.
The red rabbit caught the fancy of some visitors.
"It's very striking," said Suzanne M. Ryan, who said she is looking for a work as a registered nurse.
"I don't know why that was a rabbit when we have so many other native animals" in the Sacramento area, said the Fair Oaks resident.
But, she added, "It gives us a leg up everybody will remember Sacramento with the red hare."
Mary and Lawrence Tom, a Sacramento couple, liked the rabbit. Mary Tom chuckled with delight when asked about the whimsical creature.
"The rabbit is really good," she said. Then she, too, added, "I wish they had a tiger! That's the Chinese year of my birth."
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Read more articles by Loretta Kalb
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