The WRAL transmission tower becomes a holiday beacon for the 50th time.
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WRAL-TV brought an annual holiday tradition to light on Tuesday, December 1, 2009, with the lighting of the 300-foot tower that tops the station. For the 50th time WRAL-TV flipped the switch to turn the tower into a tree ablaze with multi-colored lights.
WRAL-TV Morning News Anchors Bill Leslie & Kelcey Carlson did the honors at 6:15pm, live from Studio A. During the evening newscasts Leslie & Carlson tossed the broadcast back and forth with the anchors on the regular news desk.
The duo was joined in Studio A by the North Carolina Central Marching Sound Machine, who provided a musical backdrop for the evening’s events.
WRAL-TV Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel did the weather forecast at the foot of the unlit tower on the station’s plaza. Then he dashed by the fountain, lit with red bulbs for the holidays, and joined the band inside for a number on his tuba.
“I think everybody here looks forward to it,” said CBC President & CEO Jim Goodmon, grandson of Fletcher. “It’s part of our tradition, and tradition is important.”
The newscast included a look back at the past 50 years of the holiday décor for the tower. Each year every bulb is handchecked before the lighting. In 1998, when WRAL got a new tower, engineers were stringing up to the last minute to prepare for the lighting ceremony.
The North Carolina Central University Marching Sound Machine play in Studio A to help celebrate the tower lighting.
WRAL engineering retiree P.B. Jernigan comes back to supervise the lighting each year. When asked what he thinks about when the countdown gets to 3-2-1, Jernigan said, “I’m thinking I hope the thing comes on.”
Thanks to the dedication of Jernigan & his team, the lights have always come on as planned. In 50 years they have never had to use the back-up switch.
Sky 5 captured the event from the sky, as a new wave of technology brought the event to viewers in a new way. WRAL.com not only live-streamed the newscasts as usual, but WRAL.com’s Kathy Hanrahan carried around a laptop & video camera bringing live-streaming of the behind-the-scenes for the first time every.
“It is just a little piece of glory at Christmastime to me,” said retired WRAL-TV Anchor Charlie Gaddy. “I mean it. I love it!”
It takes from one to three days each year to get the 2,800 lights ready to sparkle, much like a family working together to put up their tree and decorations. WRAL sees ourselves as part of the Triangle family, and lights the tower each year for the enjoyment of everyone in our community.
It’s a way of saying “thanks everybody,” said Goodmon, “and let’s celebrate together.”