Making the Season Merry, Festive and Safe: Behind the Scenes of the WRAL Tower Lighting Special

“Producing the WRAL Tower Lighting is my favorite assignment every year. Every year, it’s amazing how many people from various departments come together for this project.”
– WRAL-TV News Producer Kelly Riner

Kelly Riner

WRAL-TV’s Kelly Riner is festively decked and ready to produce the 2020 WRAL-TV, American Tobacco & Rocky Mount Mills Tower Lighting (Photo courtesy of Kelly Riner)

WRAL-TV supersized the tower lighting for 2020, combining the lighting celebrations from American Tobacco’s Lucky Strike Tower, the Rocky Mount Mills Water Tower and the WRAL-TV Tower into one, live half-hour special.  Because of the pandemic, in-person events could not take place, so CBC found a way to bring all three tower lightings to everyone in the Triangle.

WRAL-TV News Producer Kelly Riner did not let the changes for 2020 get her down.  She still decked out in her festive best and produced the special which aired live on Tuesday, December 1.

“Producing the WRAL Tower Lighting is my favorite assignment every year,” she said.  “Every year, it’s amazing how many people from various departments come together for this project.”

Riner was thrilled that WRAL-TV expanded their usual scope this year to include Rocky Mount Mills and the American Tobacco Campus in the special.

Capcom talked to Riner about how WRAL tackled the unique challenges to producing an expanded tower lighting special during the time of COVID:

The excitement leading up to the event was incredible, especially considering the unique challenges the pandemic brings for all us professionally and personally. Safety was our number one priority as we set out to continue this special WRAL tradition.  

Our meetings were all virtual. We staged everything with a broad footprint to allow for maximum social distancing. We encouraged viewers to stay at home. A couple of our performances were pre-recorded to keep the artists and our crews safe. Staff who regularly work from home and in the field came in to help with guests, so those of us inside the building had no potential exposures. We used a different phone line so field producers didn’t have to borrow headsets. Really, everything was taken into consideration.

Each department head and manager made sure everything looked great and we were all safe.  It was much appreciated.

2020 WRAL Tower Lighting

Behind the scenes at the 2020 WRAL-TV, American Tobacco & Rocky Mount Mills Tower Lighting (Photo courtesy of Kelly Riner)

One thing about the tower lighting special did not change this year.  Riner did not hold back on donning her more festive apparel.

“If anyone saw me on Tower Lighting day, I was dressed in Christmas light-themed attire from head to toe, literally,” she said.  “It was a bit silly and quite a sight but I hope, just like the special, that it brought some cheer during an otherwise sad and scary time.”

She has collected fun outfit pieces over the years, and several close to her pitched in new pieces this year, including a holiday facemask.

“My accessories were all gifts from co-workers and friends who know just how much joy and enthusiasm I have for the Tower Lighting production and for this gift WRAL gives to the community each year!!” said Riner.

WRAL viewers can see the WRAL-TV tower, American Tobacco’s Lucky Strike Tower and the water tower at Rocky Mount Mills aglow every night now through the new year.  Those lights are something that will go on despite COVID.

“I’m looking forward to next year when we can all be closer together, high five, and hug,” said Riner.  “Until then, if you see anything with holiday lights, consider adding it to your wardrobe this season. I guarantee, just like the beautiful Capitol Broadcasting towers do, you, too, can spread a little hope and cheer.”

Thanks to WRAL-TV’s Kelly Riner for these capcom photos.

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