South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

Community comes together to light Carson for holidays


When the South Side Chamber of Commerce bought the snowflake holiday lights two years ago, the lights were bright, and they lit up East Carson Street for the holiday season from mid-November to mid-January.

But, last year the snowflake lights lost their luster. Their dim lights were hardly noticeable, even in the dark. Many people talked about the snowflakes and wondered what could be done.

Some thought the chamber should put up the dim lights "as is" this year. Some thought they should not hang the snowflakes this year because the organization could not afford to repair nor replace them. Others thought the lights should be repaired and to reach out to the community for help.

Everyone agreed residents, businesses and visitors alike enjoy having the snowflakes jazz up the South Side for the holidays.

Of the 30 snowflakes purchased originally, three were damaged while displayed on the utility poles, leaving 27. Each snowflake requires 75 feet of replacement rope lighting and a new five-foot electrical cord to attach the light fixture plugged into a secondary electrical box at specially wired Duquesne Light Company utility poles along East Carson Street.

Candice Gonzalez, executive director of the chamber, said it was like a puzzle. Who could fix the snowflakes? Where would we get the supplies? Who would help pay for the supplies? Who would install them?

It was even discussed at the South Side Planning Forum meeting for a couple of months.

The most important piece was finding someone to fix the snowflakes. The chamber asked the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local #5 on the South Side if repairing the snowflakes could be a project for their apprenticeship training program. After examining one of the damaged snowflakes, IBEW took the challenge and scheduled their apprenticeship team to make the repairs.

With IBEW's essential commitment to donate the repair of the snowflakes in place, the chamber found others to join the snowflake repair team, ordered the necessary supplies, and raised donations to cover most of the costs.

The chamber reported the snowflakes challenges and estimated repair costs to the other South Side community organizations. They individually recognized the importance of getting the snowflakes repaired and installed.

The South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association, the South Side Bar and Restaurant Association and the South Side Community Council donated $1,000 each to join the Chamber to repair and light up the snowflakes.

The chamber submitted an application to Duquesne Light Company to obtain permission to attach the snowflakes to the DLC utility poles, provided the required certificate of liability insurance, and identified 26 utility pole locations for the snowflake installations. Duquesne Light officials approved the application right away and authorized the installations.

Cardello Electrical Supply and Lighting on the North Shore ordered 14 reels of better replacement rope lighting at a discounted cost, donated 27 electrical connection cords, located 6,000 zip ties at record speed from various warehouses, and waived delivery charges.

Plant Services of South Side ordered the banding and brackets to connect the snowflakes to the utility poles also in record time.

Groll Ornamental Iron Works on Becks Run Road repaired three of the aluminum snowflake frames within hours so they could be returned to the IBEW apprentices for timely repairs.

Thirty IBEW apprentices worked diligently for 250 hours to remove the damaged rope lighting and reassemble the new rope lighting and electrical cord on each of the 27 snowflakes.

Apprentices at the IEBW Local #5 work on rewiring the snowflake holiday lights now brightening E. Carson St.

Precision Electrical Contractors, Inc., of South Side installed the repaired snowflakes on the 25 Duquesne Light utility poles which had the right connections in the early hours on November 17 and 18, donating the labor and equipment needed. Precision Electrical Contractors, Inc. also will donate the labor and equipment needed to remove the snowflakes in January.

"So, here it is," Ms. Gonzalez said. "The snowflakes story, one to warm our collective hearts on the South Side. A story that shows the warmth and vitality of South Side businesses and residents working together in the best interests of the South Side community.

"Let's thank the ones who donated the money, supplies, labor and time needed to repair and install the snowflake lights along East Carson Street. Especially this year, these beautiful snowflakes truly are beacons of the vibrant spirit of the people of Pittsburgh's Historic South Side."


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