PALMER — A moment captured in downtown Palmer at Dec. 8 was years in the making.
For the second time ever, the iconic Palmer Water Tower lit up. This year, the lighting of the tower signaled the start of the Colony Christmas parade, adding a new twist to an old tradition.
“It’s a Palmer boy’s dream,” Stefan Marty said.
Marty co-owns Bleeding Heart Brewery with Zack Lanphier. The two have a strong friendship with Kelly Turney, who owns the Alaska Picker, and host events together often. A little more than two years ago, Turney was in Greatland Welding and saw the finial, a basketball sized red ball that had sat atop the water tower. The Palmer water tower is the state’s only water tower adorned with the name of the city it’s in. Greatland owner Gary Feaster had done some metal work on the damaged finial, and knowing Turney’s deep appreciation for Palmer’s history and character, handed it over, no questions asked.
“It’s yours now,” Feaster told Turney.
What started with the finial ended up in the bright lights of the Colony Christmas Parade, in its 83rd year. Turney got permission from Bill Ingaldson, who owns the property next to Alaska Picker that the tower sits on. Turney then got a helping hand from the Palmer Fire Department, cleared the idea with the city of Palmer, and got assistance from Gage Tree Service. The three hung 12 strings of multicolored lights on the tower in 2017. The three Palmer boys were the first people to walk atop the water tower in more than 30 years.
Bleeding Heart hosted it’s first ‘Running of the Beers 5ish K’ that started at the garage brewery on Inner Springer Road and ended at Alaska Picker, just in time for runners to see the lighting of the tower and join in the Christmas celebration downtown. In 2017, more than 500 people signed up. This year, just over 250 showed up, many wearing pink shorts, shoes, and nothing else, to brave the winter conditions for the run.
“We love Palmer and want to give back to the people that support us year round, I guess that looks like forcing people to run in the snow and cold,” Marty said.
This year also marked the first time that the lighting of the tower was in concert with the rest of the three-day schedule of events around Colony Christmas. Turney’s daughter did the honors of connecting two extension cords in 2017, but on Saturday, Turney approached Marty and asked if he would like to do the honors. Marty was struck with the significance of powering on the lights that stay lit above the city for the entire Christmas season.
“Being able to be a part of this thing for the community is extraordinary,” Marty said.
After the start of the run at 4 p.m., which Marty and Lanphier stayed behind to document, they counted down to the start of the parade at 5 p.m. with parade emcee and Palmer City Councilwoman Sabrena Combs. In a video that can be seen on the Alaska Picker Facebook page, Marty gives some extra charge to each end of the cords before putting the lights on.
“It was his own little touch,” Turney said.
Matanuska Electric Association donates money toward powering the lights, and Bleeding Heart and the Alaska Picker both chipped for the cost of the lights, which are LED this year. Bleeding Heart and the Alaska Picker put on various events for the community like the Drive In Movie that they do not make a profit off of, but feel that they can provide an important service to the community that is more important to them.
“It’s about doing something unique fun and cool for Palmer, in Palmer,” Turney said. “We have only water tower in the state of Alaska that has our own city’s name on it, and so for us to be able to light it up brings a smile to my face.”
Both Marty and Turney had a moment of realization after lighting the tower. It can be seen quite distinctly in the video, Marty adds his own touch to the ends of the cord, pushes them together and sees the lights above. His face is overcome with joy and mouth agape as he sees what he has done.
“It’s a community effort all the way around just to get the finial back up, have the lights up, and have all the working parts come together,” Turney said.
Marty described it as a moment of self-awareness. Having come from a homestead family and lived in Palmer all his life, he is uncertain of how he got to be in this place, but happy for the opportunity to give back to the community he loves.
“I’m really happy to be a part of these sorts of things,” Marty said. “We love Palmer.”
Turney shared his moment with his family. After successfully pulling of the Running of the Beers and the water tower lighting, Turney turned to his wife a few short moments after the cheers subsided and simply said ‘Hey, we did it.’