Every winter, JBER (Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, pronounced J-bear) turns on a huge pattern of a star on Mount Gordon Lyon near Anchorage. Anchorage bowl residents enjoy the “Site Summit Star” from Thanksgiving until the last dog sled team finishes the Iditarod race in Nome.
Since I grew up on Fort Richardson (now part of JBER), the star on the mountain holds special significance to me. My father worked at the Army’s Nike missile sites, including the one often called Site Summit on that mountain, and our family was invited to holiday dinners in their mess hall. I have fond memories of the soldiers making a fuss over us kids and my mother enjoying a big dinner without the hassle of cooking one. Plus, the drive up and back provided amazing views.
The star goes way back. In 1958, Captain Douglas Evert, the Battery Commander, installed a 15-foot star on the Site Summit gate house. In 1960, it was replaced by a 117-foot star. After a 1989 avalanche, they set up a 300-foot-wide star. This year, the old bulbs were replaced with energy-saving rope lights, and they can turn it on from a remote switch, sparing personnel a long, cold snow machine ride to the lights.
The star has been something I’ve seen every year I can remember, and I even dream about it. I gaze up at the mountain and see a community fixture, something that generations of Anchorage-area residents look forward to and remember for decades to come. Every year, people ask each other, “Have you seen the star yet?”
Thank you to the people who maintain the star, giving us a special holiday decoration that brings us all together.
Thanks to Mike and Mary Dougherty of the Anchorage Memories VIP Club for much of the information above! You can subscribe to their Anchorage history emails at https://anchoragememories.substack.com/?utm_source=substack&utm_medium=email&utm_content=share
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