Today, December 1, we celebrate the annual WRAL tower lighting for Christmas. During the evening newscast, that giant metal structure behind the building will be transformed into a dazzling tower of power Christmas tree.
Over the years, elements of entertainment have been added to create a jolly mood for the viewers.
Intermixed throughout the evening newscast, choral groups and bands perform from Studio A and/or in the courtyard area. Excitement heightens as the countdown to “throwing the switch” draws near.
Then the magic starts to happen. Everyone in the courtyard leans back to fix their gaze on the tower, waiting to see over 3,000 multi-color lights illuminate the dark sky. Three. Two. One…slight pause…will the lights come on…YES! Almost like a rocket blasting off a launch pad, the tower lights up the night sky. Commuters on Western Boulevard do a double-take and traffic slows to a crawl. In the control room, the director takes the beauty shot from SKY 5 orbiting around the radiant tower. Cue the news anchor. “Happy Holidays from all of us at Capitol Broadcasting Company!”
How did this annual tradition get started? Whose bright idea was this? For those answers and more, we turn to our CBC History webpage and find the answers.
The late Scottie Stephenson, VP at CBC, explains the origin of the tower lighting.
Retired WRAL News anchor Charlie Gaddy shares his thoughts on one of his favorite tower lighting moments. It occurred in 1981.
If you would like to see an original light bulb used on the original tower, stroll down to Kevin Shand’s cubicle and you’ll find bulbs used on the old tower. Remember, in 1999, the old four-side tower behind the broadcast building had to be dismantled to make room for the expansion project. The new triangular tower was built and located slightly north in the side parking lot. New lights were built into the tower to ensure the holiday tradition didn’t miss a beat.
Back in the day, who actually threw the switch for the lights to come on?
WRAL engineer P.B. Jernigan
Thanks to Corp’s Pam Allen for this capcom story. Pam Parris Allen is a former WRAL newscast producer/director who now works as a researcher and producer on the CBC History Project.