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Scranton radio tower shines bright for decades

People from all over tune in from their cozy homes or stand in the cold to see the iconic radio tower put on a show of its own.

SCRANTON, Pa. — Newswatch 16 will be in downtown Scranton for the annual lighting of the radio tower atop the Scranton Times building.

It's billed as the region's tallest Christmas tree.

It was 61 years ago that the 296-foot radio tower lit the night sky.

It's a time for lights, fun, and what many see as the kickoff for the holiday season.

"I look forward to it every year. It kicks off the great downtown Scranton atmosphere for Christmas and all the holiday things going on. So, it's a great time of year; we'll be there," said Jennifer Saunders, owner of Northern Light Espresso Bar and Cafe.

People from all over tune in from their cozy homes or stand in the cold to see the iconic radio tower put on a show of its own.

But the celebration doesn't stop there.

"Usually, my wife and I will go out shopping; if we're downtown, we'll go out shopping afterwards and get Christmas presents for people in our family," said Keith Langan of Troop.

The event has grown since then-Mayor James Hanlon started the tradition with the flip of a switch.

"It was the idea of our radio chief engineer back in 1960, and my grandfather thought it was a great idea, so they went ahead and lit it for the first time in 1960," said George Lynett of the Scranton Times-Tribune in 2011.

The Times tower has been an annual event since, shining a light and signifying hope through the dark times and even through the pandemic.

And if you are doing the math, it should be 62 years this week, but in 1973, the Scranton skyline stood still.

That year President Nixon asked the country to conserve energy during the energy crisis, and the tower remained unlit.

Still, the tradition continued the following year, and in the years to come, the Times family opened the lighting ceremony to the public.

People flocked to Penn Avenue in the cold but with warm hearts of old memories and some with a glisten in their eyes, making new ones.

All the holiday hoopla begins with the reflection of 480 bulbs radiating the smiles on the faces of everyone in its presence.

It's almost that time for the Electric City to get a bit brighter, and it's not just a light show; it's fireworks, food, and plenty of entertainment for people of all ages starting at 4 p.m.

Watch the tower come to life, signaling the beginning of the Christmas season here in the viewing area, live at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 23 with WNEP+ on Roku and FireTV, at WNEP.com/watch and during Newswatch 16 at 6:00.

Check out WNEP's YouTube channel.

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