Former WRAL anchor: Tower lighting is station's gift to community

Posted December 1, 2011

— When WRAL-TV flips the switch on its 52nd annual tower lighting Thursday night, the 300-foot tower becomes both a shining beacon and an early present.

"It's the station’s Christmas gift to the whole community," said former WRAL anchor Charlie Gaddy, who retired in 1994, following an award-winning, 24-year career.

As the tower at WRAL-TV studios, 2619 Western Blvd., is lit Thursday, temperatures will be sliding from the daytime highs in the mid-50s to an overnight low in the low 30s.

The best way to see the entire celebration is on TV. Tune on to WRAL News starting at 5 p.m.

Transforming the tower into a lighted Christmas tree started in 1960 as the the holiday vision of A.J. Fletcher, the founder of WRAL-TV's parent company, Capitol Broadcasting Company.

Each year, Fletcher went on the air and read "A Christmas Carol" to viewers before the tower was lit. The original tradition has been embellished with new ones, including musical performances, aerial video from Sky 5 and streaming video on WRAL.com.

Over the years, there have been some surprises. Scrooge paid a visit in 2005, and WRAL chief meteorologist Greg Fishel has played his tuba.

A new tower was built in 1998 and lit with thousands of new lights. Those lights must be inspected each year.

"When the lights come on, the little ones will start looking up and up and up," Gaddy said. "And, you know, they finally almost topple over to see the top of the tower, which has a star up there."

Gaddy says he often thinks about the students and nearby residents who can see the tower lit up every night through New Year’s Day.

"We really do celebrate Christmas here in a big way," he said.

In 1981, Gaddy introduced the tower lighting with the help of Sky 5.


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  • JustOneGodLessThanU Dec 5, 2011

    I wish the people who proclaim that they "do unto others" would stop the personal attacks and just answer the question:

    Why not include the remaining 25% of the population and call it a "holiday" tower?...something to celebrate the dozen holidays this time of year?

    What is gained by excluding 1/4 of the population?

  • andela Dec 2, 2011

    Love the lighted tower. They take such good care of it making sure all the lights work. Now if only Raleigh could take a hint and replace the lights on their lamp post decorations. I think they are supposed to be acorns but many of the lights are out on most of them so the lamp post 'decorations' just look like blobs of Christmas lights someone forgot to untangle and just threw at the lamppost.

  • awomnsptofview Dec 1, 2011

    Amen "OpenM1nd". WRAL does indeed give so much back to the community. This station goes out of his way to help, uplift, inform, and entertain all their viewers. I have never been to see the lighting, but I always watch it on TV. Bah Humbug to all the naysayers and grumblers.

  • davidgnews Dec 1, 2011

    It's nice, but I don't get the 'present' part. Whatever.

  • rrgreennc Dec 1, 2011

    The tower lighting became a part of my Christmas while I was a student at NCSU. Lots of us would watch the lighting from the upper floors of Lee and Sullivan dormitories. I always watched the show on TV in the comfort of my room until it was time to flip the switch, and then I went out onto the breezeway for a great view.
    Nowadays, I don't drive by that area very often, but I can sometimes catch a glimpse through the trees as I drive across the I-40 just west of the Lake Wheeler exit.
    Thanks WRAL.
    Oh, and I miss Adele too. She and Jim Payne were my favorite news personalities on WRAL.

  • corey3rd Dec 1, 2011

    it's healthier than the Lighting of the Lucky Strike Tower - which is a TV commercial for a cigarette brand and lets kids link smokes with Santa.

  • They call me CATMAN Dec 1, 2011

    I have never had the chance to be there when they flip the switch but it is something I enjoy when I drive past the tower.
    I would hate to be the person in charge of putting up those lights and inspecting them each year. Thank you WRAL for such a nice display.

  • OpenM1nd Dec 1, 2011

    "It was and is advertisement for WRAL."

    Let them advertise. They give so much back to the community.

  • br549znc Dec 1, 2011

    Merry Christmas to all.

  • Big Daddy Cain Dec 1, 2011

    I see they ain't doing a whole half hour special this year at 7pm like they did last year. That 1/2 hour show last year was the worst production I have ever seen. I have been to holiday shows at elementary schools that were a lot more professional that thing WRAL tried to put together last year. Awful. Just awful.

    Just stick to the lights.