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Shine on: Hamburg holiday star receives a face-lift, with LED bulbs

STAR LIGHT, STAR BRIGHT — The star that sits on the village of Hamburg water tower, by the intersection of Lake Avenue and Buffalo Street, was replaced entirely with LED light bulbs. Photos by Alicia Greco.
HAMBURG — John Leitten, an electrician by trade and a member of the Hamburgh Holidays committee, has been tending to the star atop the village of Hamburg water tower since 1998.

“I’m the guardian of the star,” he said. The star itself has been in existence since 1964 and has since gone through various keepers and improvements.

This year, its 120 bulbs were replaced with OSRAM Sylvania© LED lights. The total replacement cost was approximately $4,000. According to the company’s website, LED bulbs “are high quality replacements for conventional light sources, in both commercial and consumer applications.”

Leitten said that the new replacements “will probably last 30 years.” The previous bulbs needed to be changed more regularly than that.

TEAMWORK — From left, Dave Sloane and Bob Allen from JemStar Construction climbed the water tower, to get the job done.
“What we wanted ... was to give the star a total new look,” Leitten said. The original star was crafted from copper pipe and held 96 bulbs. In 1999, for the millennium celebration, Leitten spearheaded the rewiring.

Most of the funding was raised during the 1999 Burgerfest. The star was brought to the ground and local residents were given the opportunity to spend either $1 to sign the star with permanent marker, $5 to buy a lamp or $10 to buy a socket and lamp.

Leitten, a Hamburg native, said that his family has been in the area for “a long, long time.” John Jr., Charles and Steven, his three sons, helped him with the initial rewiring.

“The star doesn’t belong to me,” Leitten said. “It belongs to the people.”

SCALE — Sloane and Allen climbing the water tower in the village of Hamburg.
On the morning of Dec. 4, Leitten met Bob Allen and Dave Sloane of the Rochester-based company JemStar Construction, at the base of the water tower, for the LED bulb replacement. Allen and Sloane are also climbers for Verizon©; both are certified in tower rescue and are approved by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. According to Allen, OSHA’s objective is “to make the work place safe for all workers.”

Although Allen said that climbing a water tower is relatively dangerous, he explained the safety precautions and necessary routine. “We limit the danger,” he said.

Sloane and Allen scaled the 120-foot water tower, to take down the 15-foot star, replace the lamps and then test the star.

Six circuits and a programmable logic controller are contained in an electrical box at the base. The PLC has nine basic programs that create a visual illusion for onlookers. “The brain makes order out of stuff,” Leitten said, explaining that the perceived movement of the star is just a formulaic programming.

During the year, individuals can pay to light the star, through Lind-Hart Mini-Ship, located at 5949 Camp Road, which has coined itself the “star facilitators.” Rental opportunities may be taken advantage of, for birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions, according to Leitten.

“If the light is lit outside of Christmas, it’s lit for someone very special,” said Andy Nyhart, the son of the Lind-Hart owner. “It means something.”

The star lighting took place in Hamburg on Dec. 6; the star will continue to be lit each evening, until the second weekend in January.

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