A Sky High Tradition

Written by Mike Siroky. Posted in Community News, People in the News

Published on December 19, 2012 with No Comments

Praxair tree lights a familiar site along Interstate 80-94
They are a Northwest Indiana tradition high enough in the holiday skies that Santa can use them as a guide.  Praxair, located along the Interstate 80-94 corridor, lights up the Christmas trees atop its three air separation towers for the holiday season.  And for local residents and travelers alike, the holidays here just wouldn’t be the same without them.
According to Praxair Plant Manager Greg Martin, the tradition began in 1976 after Praxair’s first column was erected. When the second column went up in 1978, so did a tree. When a third column was built in 1996, the company initially added a third tree to its holiday display. But when Praxair decided to go back to its original two-tree display, the community took note. In fact, when Burns Harbor officials asked if Praxair would consider returning that third tree to its third column, the company did just that, Martin said.

Area Operations Manager Dennis Maxwell said the tradition was well underway when he arrived at this plant more than a dozen years ago. “Once we started lighting them, we kept going, ” Maxwell said. “They used to be high-maintenance (as in changing the bulbs) but now that we’ve gone to LED lighting, that helped out tremendously.” In fact, the trees were originally hauled up the towers by ropes, Maxwell said. Martin remembered those earlier days, adding that it is still quite a job. “What with the wind and the cold, it does take a lot of effort . But we do it because it is a good thing to do,” he said The towers are known as the “one-hour towers” because that is how long it takes travelers doing the speed limit to reach Chicago from that point on the expressway, Maxwell said. Maxwell said the company knows the lights are expected. The lighting begins on Thanksgiving and continues through Epiphany, Martin added. “We get comments when they are not lit,” Maxwell observed. For so many, the Praxair trees are an important part of their Region holiday memories. Many peopleeven those who have moved away from Northwest Indiana-contact the company to let them know how much the holiday display a means to them. Martin recalls that last year the company received an email from a Chesterton resident. The woman said that for years she has admired the display as she drove back and forth from Chesterton to Illinois and Michigan. “She wrote that she hopes that we never take them down , that they represent the spirit of the holiday,” Martin said.

Praxair is an international company. It supplies oxygen, nitrogen and argon to customers along its proprietary pipeline in Northwest Indiana and to other customers by truck throughout the Midwestern United States. Praxair services the steel mills, with most of its product delivered through pipelines. It is a clean company, selected by The Green Rankings for the fourth consecutive year. The rankings assess the environmental performance of the largest publicly traded companies in the United States and around the world. For more information on the company, visit its website at www.praxair.com.

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About Mike Siroky

All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in the above excellent column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Mike Siroky is a writer and editor. He is a native of Northwest Indiana. He has worked in media from coast to coast. To contact Mike, email mikel@the chronicleNWI.com

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