Palmer Lake Star

Palmer Lake and the town’s iconic star are pictured. 

At around 7:30 p.m. March 19, in another night of quarantine for much of America, the call came to the volunteer fire department in Palmer Lake.

Chris Evans picked up and took his captain's orders.

"Something needed to be done," Evans said.

So off went a fellow firefighter on an ATV, bound to the base of Sundance Mountain, where he pushed a button, and some 92 LED bulbs began to glimmer in the darkness.

In what has been a moment of collective grief brought on by COVID-19, the historic star overlooking the town and seen from a distance in northern Colorado Springs is shining bright once again.

It normally shines during Christmastime and other holidays. But last week, it was lit "to remind us how we need to be united in helping each other during these difficult times," read a Facebook post by town officials.

It was lit not quite like the Christ Redeemer statue was earlier this week — with flags of the world adorning the famed landmark in Rio de Janeiro — but lit nonetheless as a symbol of hope. It was lit along with the star in Castle Rock, which has similar roots.

Both stars seen along Interstate 25 were born at the height of the Great Depression. In the summer of 1935 in Palmer Lake, B.E. Jack and Bert Sloan met for coffee to discuss the idea of a star that would greet travelers through town, however few they were.

Jack Anthony, a town historian, shares the story every Saturday after Thanksgiving, when the fire department's chili supper precedes the annual lighting.

"Bert said it best," Anthony said to a crowd atop a ladder last November, sharing the words Sloan said long after the star's construction:

"'We wanted to do something the town could be proud of for many years, and the star did just that.'"

The star, Anthony writes in a history, "demonstrates the determination, dedication and perseverance of the community."

Men were seen heading up the mountain's steep, scree-covered slope with buckets of concrete to stabilize wooden posts, on which they would string lightbulbs. Dizzy, Sloan's German shepherd named for pro baseball pitcher Dizzy Dean, would tote packs of tools and wire.

"It took them about four months," Anthony said. "They scrounged up the parts, got a couple bucks from the town council, and they built what I believe is the world's largest outdoor star on display."

A survey for the state's historic register showed the star to be about 500-by-500 feet. It underwent major renovations in 1976 and 2002, with more recently elementary school kids raising funds to replace the 40-watt bulbs with LED lights.

The star has been captured in art and words, including the poem by Nancy Godbout Jurka. She considered it "heaven's candlelight," which "shines out for miles to the hungry hearts of mankind."

It typically shines five weeks during Christmas. It could shine now as long as it ever has in 85 years, Anthony said.

"It'll shine until we come out of this," he said.

Contact the writer: 636-0332

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