As daylight dims during the Utah winter months and a hush falls with the snow, there is a bright reminder of the spirit of the season on the mountains above Kaysville. From the Monday after Thanksgiving to New Years Day, a star on the mountain lights up every night as it has done for more than 55 years. Kaysville Mayor Steve Hiatt says, "For us, lighting the star is like lighting the community spirit around the holidays."
Volunteers from the Kaysville Jaycees created the star in the late '50s or early '60s. They strung light bulbs together by looping wires around metal hooks on pieces of rebar mounted into the ground. Jeff Dunford, who has volunteered with those managing the star since the 1960s, recalls, "Every year there was a lot of maintenance because the weather would get bad and the light bulbs would break."
After the Utah Olympic Games in 2002, the City of Kaysville asked Olympics organizers to re-purpose the lights from the Olympic rings above the University of Utah. Along with those lights, Kaysville was given four pallets of equipment to build a new star.
Dunford immediately started on the design. "I drew it by hand originally. We realized we could make it double so we kind of zig-zagged the lights to make it double all the way around it. When you look at it here it just looks like one row of stars around it, but it makes it real bright." During the design phase, Dunford worked closely with a Kaysville Eagle Scout and the young man's father who was an engineer.
Together, they made sure each stake was perfectly aligned on the mountainside to create the 60-foot-wide star you see now with its 75 neon lights each covered with a glass dome. Dunford says, "The neon lights draw half the power so we were able to double the number of lights in the star and make it bigger, but it made it a real nice bright star."
The lights and generator are now permanently mounted on the site about a mile up a steep trail. Every afternoon during the holiday season, volunteers drive up their SUV's, ATVs or snowmobiles to fuel the generatorin good weather or bad.
Dunford recalls, "In the '80s and '90s there was some pretty heavy snow during a few of those winters and it was a snowmobile deal. There were a couple of times where I didn't think we were going to make it. I know that."
With Utah's seasonal snowstorms, it is occasionally a risky venture and a big commitment on the part of the volunteers who, as far as Dunford recalls, have never missed a day flipping the switch.
Mayor Hiatt says, "That's what really makes our community unique. Of course every community thrives and flourishes from its volunteers, but we've got volunteers in Kaysville and Fruit Heights that just give of themselves, of their time, of their resources, and this really shines, literally, shines as a beacon of what's great about our country, about our state and especially about our community. We love it, we feel it's our contribution to northern Utah and it simply wouldn't be possible without the amazing volunteers."
Read more from the Utah League of Cities and Towns on DeseretNews.com or visit their website at ulct.org.