History of El Paso’s Mountain Star
The first star was built by El Paso Electric in 1940. It was only 50 feet wide and could barely be seen on the Carlsbad Highway. The star did not last long either, a storm blew out most of the bulbs on the first experimental star.
Soon after that, a bigger and better star was built. This star was 403 feet long, 300 feet wide and used 300 lights.
Improvements were made in 1946. The length was increased to 459 feet, the width reduced to 278 feet and 459 (150 W) lights were used. Today the star still has those same dimensions. The poles, which vary in height from 12 to 15 feet, start at the mountain top and run down to a point about 300 feet above Scenic Drive. The star sits at an angle of 30 degrees and appears perfectly when viewed from the focal point at the intersection of Texas and Alameda Avenues.
From its lofty height, the star may be seen from the East, 100 miles from the air and 30 miles from the ground.
The poles are steel and are embedded in concrete. They are treated so they don’t rust.
There are approximately 30 streamers that are hooked onto guy wire cables forming the star and are pulled into position. Some of the lights are separated by three feet and some by four feet, depending on whether their positions are in a vertical or horizontal line.
There are no clear records that indicate whether or not the star has been lit every year since 1940. There are some who believe that the star was not lit some years during World War II. However, everyone agrees that since the War, the star has been lit every year.
A popular misconception is that the star was not lit in some years in the 1970s, in recognition of the Energy Crisis. Although El Paso Electric did reduce the schedule for the lighting of the star, the star remained on every year during that time.
Another change in the lighting schedule came in 1979 when the star remained lit for 444 days in recognition of the American hostages who were being held in Iran, which began during the Christmas season in 1979 until Jan. 21, 1981, when the hostages were released.
During the Persian Gulf war, the star was kept on for 263 days, from Christmas 1990 to Aug. 21, 1991.
Traditionally, the star was lighted only during the Christmas season until 1993 when El Paso Chamber of Commerce President Jack Maxon spearheaded a movement to keep the star lit throughout the year. The star was lit at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, April 21 during the El Paso Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Banquet and has lighted-up the El Paso skies every evening since then.
On December 2000, the maintenance and upkeep of the star was officially turned over to the Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber currently coordinates a sponsorship program for the lighting of the star. For a donation, Star Lighters receive a certificate and a lapel pin commemorating the occasion. To have the star lit in honor or in memory of someone, call the El Paso Chamber of Commerce at (915) 534-0500. Please allow at least one-week advance notice.
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