A star is (re) born

By on April 4, 2018

Do you want to own a piece of Lititz history?

Well, now’s your chance.

The iconic Christmas stars that adorn the streets of Lititz during each holiday season will soon be retired and put up for sale, and one can be yours for a price of $450. With each purchase also comes the opportunity to sponsor a new and improved star with your name or business on it.

But don’t worry, Lititz isn’t about to lose a tradition. Rather, the lights will receive a much-needed upgrade. Built more than 35 years ago, the current stars have seen better days, and are starting to deteriorate. Years of cold weather and snow have also taken a toll on the familiar downtown structures. While this seems like a big change, rest assured that the new design will be virtually identical, and very tough to decipher between old and new.

“We had a prototype made, and you’re not going to be able to tell the difference,” said Lititz Police Chief Kerry Nye, who voluntarily stepped up to help disseminate information about the restoration process. Another area of concern that prompted the change this year was how the lights were secured into place on the street lamps.

“The old ones won’t fit on the current globes, and were zipped tied on,” stated Nye. “The new ones will be bolted on, and more secure.”

Lititz Borough Public Works Manager Andy Garner (left) and Lititz Police Chief Kerry Nye show off the new star prototype at a recent Lititz borough council meeting.

Another small difference will be the switching to LED-style bulbs. In addition to being more energy efficient, the new bulbs won’t have the chance of water leaking into them like the old ones did.
Knowing the antiquated wooden stars were starting to deteriorate, Lititz resident and Borough Works employee Chad Reed took the lead, and fast-tracked the design phase of the project.
“We decided it was time. The old ones were breaking apart,” Reed said. “We came up with an aluminum design using the same measurements as the former wooden ones.”

Taking a week to design, Reed came up with an idea which maintained the same style and look while creating safer handling, maintenance, and durability. Each new star will be powder coated, providing a longer lasting life. All wiring will also be run inside the structure for added safety and protection from the elements.

“I think once people see them they’re really going to like them,” Reed said. “It’s an old/new update, and in the long run, it’s going to look a lot nicer.”

So where did it all begin? With a simple idea over 80 years ago.

Lititz Chamber of Commerce decided in December 1937 that “stars of lights” would be placed on top of three lights at the Roebuck Memorial Fountain at the square, as well as on seven of the lights adjacent to the center of town. That year on Christmas Eve, caroling took place at the square where members of the community had the chance to gaze upon the stars for the very first time in our town’s history. Then, in 1939, 10 more were added; and by 1940, Lititz boasted 22 more which were constructed by Robert Hower, an industrial arts teacher. The placement was also extended–they were lined along Broad Street from Orange to Lincoln Avenue; and from Main to Cedar streets. By the time the holiday season of 1945 arrived, the count had reached 38. Surprisingly, in 1952, there were only seven stars put up, and were all placed near the square.

To add a new effect, the regular street lights were turned off that year, as the bright colored bulbs shed off the same amount of light as the regular domes did. After 45 years, 1982 saw the stars– now over 50 of them– being mostly reconstructed or fully replaced. A true community effort, several thousand dollars was raised through the generosity of local residents, retailers, and service organizations. That year, Phil McCloud, then vice-president of the Lititz Retailer’s Association, presented a check to members of Borough Council to help pay for the lion’s share of the funds still needed to greenlight the project. After expenses, a small balance remained, and earmarked for future upkeep and maintenance.

Since 1937, Christmas stars have shined their bright lights each holiday season throughout the downtown area. This year, the cherished holiday lights will receive a much needed upgrade.

“If I recall, the Industrial Arts students played a major part in redoing them that year,” McCloud said. “I think the new upgrade is a great idea, and thankfully, the concept won’t be changed. I give my full blessing.”

Scheduled to be produced this fall, eight of the 50 new stars have already been claimed. For more information or to sponsor a star (and to take home an old one), contact Lititz Chief of Police Kerry Nye at NyeK@police.co.lancaster.pa.us. Orders will be taken on a first come, first served basis.

Cory Van Brookhoven is a staff writer for the Lititz Record Express. He welcomes your comments at cvanbrookhoven@lnpnews.com or 717-721-4423

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