As Village President Steve Staton led the countdown for the Tin Man’s new lights to be turned on at dusk last Tuesday, dozens got ready to capture the moment on their smartphones. Ten seconds later, cheers and applause erupted from Waterman Triangle Park when Rich DeVoe of Searl Electric flipped the switch.
The June 6 lighting ceremony capped a years-long effort to dress up the water tower into a landmark. There are now 12 LED lights along the catwalk and four lights, one on each leg, that point up to the bottom of the tank.
Many donned glow stick bracelets to mark the occasion in the dark, including Oregon resident Jeanne Neath. She snapped a photo from across the street, commenting she likes the “more subdued” lighting.
Further down the street at the corner of Main and Janesville, the silhouette of Lisa Cardarella Hustad holding her camera was visible against the World War I memorial. She found the perfect spot to frame the bright moon directly above the newly lit water tower.
“I adore it,” Hustad said. “Now we need the library campus to go with it.”
People enjoyed free ice cream and snacks while waiting for the lighting ceremony to start after the Oregon Community Band concert. The calm, clear skies made for a beautiful evening at the park.
“I was in charge of that,” Staton deadpanned.
He told the Observer it was a “great night” for a “great event” downtown, and he was pleased at the turnout. After the musicians and playful kids cleared the band shelter, Staton approached the microphone to welcome and thank the community for their support of the project.
“This is another interesting and worthwhile chapter in our historical downtown,” he said. “(It) fortifies the sense of identity by pulling people together and giving something that they can recognize as being important in the past.”
He thanked the late Joan Gefke, a local resident and historian who helped with downtown redevelopment and preserving buildings like the water tower and pump house through her “optimism and passion.” He quoted part of the letter she wrote to the Wisconsin State Journal in 2008, two years before her death, in response to an article titled, “Recycle Oregon’s ugly water tower.”
“Yes the water tower does look over the downtown. Yes it is old and rusty. But the message it sends is not one of gloom and doom,” she wrote. “The message echoed from this magnificent icon is that there is real value in the past. History establishes a sense of place, of a hometown where its roots are important and that old, established walls and sites are ageless if taken care of.”
Staton also honored project organizer, Randy Glysch, who’s led fundraising campaigns over the past four years to restore the pump house and paint and light the 100-foot-tall water tower.
“He’s a great example of the word ‘community,’” Staton said. “That the most important part is the last five letters, which spell ‘unity,’ and bringing people together to accomplish things.”