Sky lights glisten atop grain elevatorGordy Johnson doesn’t string a single bulb in his front yard for Christmas. But his holiday decorating is seen by thousands of motorists each day.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Gordy Johnson doesn’t string a single bulb in his front yard for Christmas. But his holiday decorating is seen by thousands of motorists each day. As the electrician for Cenex Harvest States, it is his job to put up the tree-shaped Christmas lights on the top of the grain elevators near the foot of the Blatnik Bridge.
“When I first went up there I thought it was pretty beautiful, the view,” Johnson said.
That was 40 years ago, when the process of hoisting up the strings of lights took the help of four men for a full day.
Today, Johnson said, it takes two people about an hour to get the decoration in place. That’s because the strings are smaller, lighter and of a uniform length.
The eight strings of lights – all frosted white – are pulled up a flagpole with the help of brackets and pulley assemblies built by the CHS millwright shop.
Then Johnson or a helper must go out to the edge of the elevators to tighten the strings up.
Good weather is needed to put the lights up and take them down, Johnson said. Last Thursday, when they were hoisted for the season, the temperature was a balmy 40 degrees and sunny.
“It was a beautiful day,” Johnson said.
The decoration has changed over the years. It once used 25 and a few 100 watt red and white household bulbs. Now, 15 watt appliance bulbs save energy.
“We’re getting greener all the time,” Johnson said.
Before they are raised, about 100 light bulbs must be replaced each year, Johnson said.
To get to the top of the 270-foot structure workers must go up an elevator, take a moving platform, then climb out onto the roof. Harnesses are only used when tightening the lines at the edge of the elevator.
The lights will stay in place through New Year’s, then taken down when weather permits.
When the holiday lights aren’t up, Johnson said, an American flag is flown on the flagpole.
This year, the lights were strung up without the help of Rick Rygg, who retired from CHS.
“I missed him this year,” Johnson said.
When he retires, he’ll pass the lights on to the next electrician, who Johnson expects will take the next step to LED lights. But for now, the view is still breathtaking.