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Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin
January 4, 2002 Issue

Star light, star bright shines in Kaukauna night

Star, angel, cross signal Christmas

By Joanne Flemming
Compass Correspondent

KAUKAUNA -- Like the shepherds and Wise Men, residents of the Fox Valley have an angel and a star to guide them during the Christmas season.

The angel and the star (there are actually two) as well as a Christmas tree sit on top of a crane boom in Kaukauna's industrial park. Made from heavy pipe, they are welded into a single unit with a cross at the center.

The cross is there for both practical and spiritual reasons said Donald "Bert" Tennessen of Kaukauna, owner of Concrete Cutters, Inc., on whose grounds the crane is located.

The cross bars, like Christ's cross, hold everything together, he said. He and his wife, Mary, are members of Holy Cross Parish in Kaukauna.

When lit, the emblems can be seen as far away as the Hwy. 41 and 47 intersection outside Appleton and even further on a dark night. Anyone taking the Hwy. 55 ramp off 41 into Kaukauna can look directly at it, Tennessen said.

He believes he got his first inspiration to build the emblems from his parents, who had a farm and machine shop south of Hollandtown. At Christmas, they put up a huge Nativity scene outside their home. It rotated on a carousel and people in cars came for miles to see it, he said.

The first Christmas decoration Concrete Cutters suspended from its crane was a real Christmas tree, Tennessen said. The following year it put up a tree made from a metal frame and wires.

After the business moved to the industrial park, it began constructing the unit it is now.

It was made evenings in the company shop. While everyone contributed, most of the work was done by his nephew, Alan Tennessen, and another employee, Bill VanderHeyden, Tennessen said. His nephew also suggested ideas for emblems.

The first were the green tree and the red cross, followed by a star, then angel, then a second star. One star is white as is the angel; the other is blue.

Tennessen said the unit was fitted into a pipe on top of the crane boom after the boom was lowered to the ground. A second crane was needed to lift the unit into position 200 feet above the ground. The unit is 24 feet wide and 33 feet high. Guide wires hold it in place.

The lights are hooked up to a rotor stored in the crane cab. When on, the lights change every five to six seconds.

Before he lights the emblems each December, Tennessen inspects the wires and lights. If lights have to be replaced, the boom has to be lowered to the ground.

The amount of activity at his business determines when he makes the inspection and turns the lights on. Usually they are turned off a week or two after Christmas. His wife has to remind him to do that, she said.

Tennessen and his employees used to take the unit down and store it in the shop. They replaced it with a shamrock on St. Patrick's Day, a rabbit at Easter, and a flag on July Fourth. But doing so became too much work, he said.

Now, he turns the red cross on from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday evening.

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