- Associated Press - Thursday, December 15, 2016

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) - Two candles have been lighting up the Indiana Memorial Union every holiday season for nearly half a century. Two very large candles.

One, attached to the IMU’s west tower, is about 60 feet tall. The other, attached to the Biddle Hotel tower on the east side of the student union building, is a staggering 90 feet tall.

The candle on the west side is formed with 60 red lights attached to stainless-steel cables that hang from a bracket bolted to the roof. Above that bracket is a metal frame adorned with 32 white lights that create the candle’s flame. The candle on the east side is made up of 78 red lights and 33 white lights.

Obviously, the candles don’t burn, but they do catch the eyes and attention of people who visit the IMU around this time of year.

“People always ask me about it,” said Gary Chrzastowski, assistant director for facilities operations at the union building.

The candles have become one of the IMU’s most recognized traditions. They’ve been hung every year since 1968, Chrzastowski said. He doesn’t know who started it or why, but for all of his 25 years at working at the union, facilities staff have brought the candles out of storage every November.

The day they’re hung varies depending on the weather, but the lights are always turned on at 5 p.m. the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. A timer turns the lights off in the morning and on every night until Jan. 3.

Weather can keep the four-person crew from taking the candles down until spring, but when the lights are off, people don’t usually notice them, Chrzastowski said.

They’re still taken down each year, though, to allow facilities staff to perform maintenance and protect the parts from the elements.

“If we kept them out year-round, they would take a beating in the weather,” he said.

While the cables were replaced about 10 years ago, and the 15-watt light bulbs have to be changed from time to time, the metal framework that forms the flames is original.

It may seem like a lot of work for a display that’s only up about six weeks each year, but it’s a tradition Chrzastowski plans to continue.

“It’s our signature piece,” he said. “The effort, time and labor are worth it. It stands out on campus and highlights the student union.”

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Source: The (Bloomington) Herald-Times, https://bit.ly/2hq2XLE

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Information from: The Herald Times, https://www.heraldtimesonline.com

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