By C. Campbell, Staff Writer
FORT PAYNE, Ala. — The Christmas season abounds with traditions. Across the country, children wait up on Christmas Eve in the hopes of catching a glimpse of Santa Claus and his reindeer.
Sports fans are glued to their television sets, taking in the NBA’s Christmas Day slate of games, or the multitude of college football bowl games. Families gather together for a filling meal, whether it be a turkey in the dining room or, in Australia, a barbecue on the beach.
In Fort Payne, the many Christmas traditions would not be complete without the star on Lookout Mountain shining down on the valley. Initially built and installed in the mid-20th Century, the workers of the Fort Payne Improvement Authority make sure that the star currently illuminating the DeKalb County nights is well maintained.
According to Johnny Evans, the Improvement Authority’s Manager of Operations, the star now sitting on top of the mountain is actually a replacement for the original star that graced the ridge. He explained that, in the early to mid 1990s, the star we see was built at Heil, measures 24 feet across, and is lit by approximately 224 lightbulbs.
Sitting on land owned by the Improvement Authority, Evans said that star operates much like the street lights throughout town, with sensors telling it when to come on and go off.
Evans also explained, “Once a year, we go up there to work on it, perform any necessary maintenance.” He stated that there are usually around 25 to 30 light bulbs that need replacing, along with the occasional socket.
While it might seem like a serious task, Evans said, “We don’t have to spend a lot of time working on it, maybe about an hour and a half.”
He added that the Improvement Authority tries to choose a day with nice weather to perform this maintenance, as the wind on the brow can be rough to deal with.
While some families may start new traditions this holiday season, and some may bring others to an end, there are some, like the star shining over Fort Payne each December, that may go on forever.
However, this bright and shining tradition might not be able to carry on from year to year without the men and women of the Fort Payne Improvement Authority.
From its first lighting right before the Thanksgiving holiday, to it being turned off the week after New Year’s Day, the star on the brow of Lookout Mountain provides the residents of Fort Payne and DeKalb County another reminder of the reason for the season.