The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

November 23, 2007

Christmas tree tower lit

500 feet of lights

NORTH MANKATO — They came in the hundreds in spite of bitter winds — or perhaps to spite them, since Minnesotans have never been cowed by a little cold — to witness something that sounds silly, and might well be.

“Only in Minnesota would people stand around in the freezing cold, and watch a radio tower get lit up,” said Jason Ceminsky of North Mankato, who came with his wife and two children.

But a 500-foot lighted tower — billed as the “World’s Tallest Christmas Tree” — wasn’t really why they braved wind chills in the 20s.

Brett Dvorak of Mankato said it’s amazing what people will tolerate just to get out and be around each other.

Jennifer Ceminsky enjoyed the “good community feel of the event,” put on by Three Eagles Communications.

And even if the ostensible star of Friday night’s show had a questionable chance of being a legitimate contender for a tree of any sort, people who showed up seemed not to mind.

Emily Roering said she had doubted the existence of a 500-foot-tall living tree, though her husband, Jason, confessed he hadn’t known the tree is a tower. They both came to listen to their 7-year-old daughter, Carlyn, sing in the choir.

“It’s all for fun,” Three Eagles Vice President Ron Gates said.

Even so, the claim may have some legitimacy. It’s the tallest lighted free-standing tower that Gates knows of.

There’s a 1,000-foot radio tower in the Netherlands, but it’s supported by cables while the North Mankato tower isn’t.

The local tower has 1,500 feet of lights with a bulb every two feet or so. While staff at the five stations owned by Three Eagles made the strings the lights would hang on, the company hired people to climb atop the tower and string the lights, Gates said.

Those lights will suck up an estimated 11,100 kilowatt hours of electricity, according to estimates provided by Dave Pearson, manager of community and government relations in Xcel Energy’s Mankato office.

If you include taxes and other charges and assume each kilowatt hour is about 10 cents, electricity costs will be about $1,100 until the lights are turned off at the start of next year.

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