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Driving through northern Porter County on I-80/94 during the holiday season, passers-by have long grown accustomed to the tall lighted trees adorning the night sky in Burns Harbor.
Thanks to local industry, town residents and interstate travelers may notice a merry upgrade to the shining trees this year.
A reference point for travelers, the three towering white columns located at the intersection of Interstate 80/94 and State Road 149 in Burns Harbor have been a local landmark for decades. As an additional beacon each holiday season, the columns have been decorated with colored light strands in the shape of Christmas trees, perched over 200 feet in the air, for over 30 years.
These columns are part of the industrial facility operated by Praxair, Inc. — a company specializing in separating air into oxygen, nitrogen and argon, which are primarily supplied to the local steel industry. However, due to upgrades at the facility earlier this year, two of the three lighted trees had to be removed.
“Burns Harbor’s longstanding history with industry has many times merged together with the natural beauty of our town,” said Town Council-elect Toni Biancardi. “Traditions such as the lighted Christmas trees so generously displayed and upgraded by Praxair represent one of many great qualities of our charming town.”
Recognizing the importance of the lighted trees to travelers and the Burns Harbor community, Praxair Facility Manager Stephen Johnson was not about to let this part of local history fade into the past. Despite the need to remove two of the trees, Johnson worked with contractor Meade Electric to re-engineer the lights, and to replace the aged incandescent lights with modern LED bulbs. The new lights are energy efficient and display more brilliant colors.
This November, when the lights were lit for the first time at night, a new issue was identified —- the two new trees outshone the third non-upgraded tree. Not satisfied with the disparity, Johnson jumped back in and worked with Meade to quickly upgrade the third tree to match.
With all three trees now lit — more brilliantly than ever — Praxair’s leadership team ensured a local tradition of the holiday season will continue to be observed by Burns Harbor locals and travelers passing through for decades to come.
Gene Weibl, a longtime resident and active community member, said, “The town remains immensely grateful to Praxair for their contributions. Many thanks to Praxair for taking the initiative to modernize the lighting on the columns for the overall betterment of Burns Harbor.”