Annual WRAL Tower Lighting continues rich tradition

Posted December 1, 2008 1:20 p.m. EST
Updated December 1, 2008 9:37 p.m. EST

— A holiday tradition nearly half a century old continued Monday night when WRAL personalities flipped the switch to light up the station's 300-foot TV tower.

The tower at WRAL-TV Studios, 2619 Western Blvd., was first transformed into a lighted Christmas tree in 1959.

The tower lighting was the holiday vision of A.J. Fletcher, the founder of WRAL-TV's parent company, Capitol Broadcasting Co.

Each year, Fletcher went on the air and read "A Christmas Carol" to viewers before the tower was lit.

Since then, the original tradition has been embellished with new ones – such as WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel playing holiday music on his tuba.

“The WRAL Tower Lighting is an annual tradition that we all look forward to,” said Leesa Moore Craigie, director of news operations and special projects. “It is our gift to the community and a wonderful way to start the holiday season. It is truly one of those feel-good TV moments of which I’m proud to be a part.”

More than 2,800 lights stay on the tower year-round but are only lighted during the holiday season.

This year, Fishel was outside, conducting a countdown to the lighting at 6:15 p.m. In a studio, WRAL anchor Bill Leslie appeared with the Capital City Girls Choir and Cantabile Singers, who performed festive music.

WRAL anchor Debra Morgan and Fishel threw the switch to transform the tower into the area's largest lighted Christmas tree, able to be seen for miles.

Three 5-foot stars adorn the top of the tower, and the colored lights keep it glowing until New Year's Day.

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