Watchfire tree lights up downtown

BY JENNIFER BAILEY

DANVILLE — Residents who didn’t attend the Festival of Trees and see Watchfire Sign’s electronic Christmas tree, or those who wanted to admire it even more, can do so downtown.

Watchfire, a Danville manufacturer of digital billboards and electronic message centers, has moved the tree to the lot at Hazel and Main streets, across from County Market for the remainder of the holiday season.

“It was an eye-catcher that night (at the Festival of Tree’s gala),” said Randy Berg, vice president of human resources for Watchfire regarding the LED (light-emitting diode) Christmas tree the company designed.

Now he’s happy to see it continue to attract attention downtown through Christmas.

Rhonda Brown, materials manager for Watchfire, said employees worked with Festival of Trees representatives.

A committee discussed creative ideas for the festival’s 15th anniversary.

One of Watchfire’s mechanical engineers narrowed down “a doable idea,” Brown said.

“We wanted to make it special and flash …,” she said.

Berg said the tree is made of a set of signs on top of each other to make a pyramid. It uses red, green and blue lighting.

The tree combines four different signs. Graphics employees programmed the tree to create the graphic images, he said.

Including the sheet metal face and base, the tree measures 12 feet, 10 inches high and 12 feet at its widest point. It consists of 50 full-color modules with more than 38,000 LEDs, according to Ryan Messmore, the mechanical engineer who designed the tree.

“Every part of it was made locally,” Berg said of the frames and other components. “The LEDS are put on the boards in our factory.”

Brown and Berg estimate about 20 employees worked on the tree.

“It was a 75- to 100-hour effort,” Berg said.

“It was all donated time,” Brown added.

Berg said employees were excited to work on the community tree, and have people drive by and view it.

Brown said Mayor Scott Eisenhauer contacted a sales representative about borrowing the tree throughout the holidays and programming it with a “Happy Holidays” message from the city.

“We’re happy to be part of the gala, and then to have that extended in a very central place,” Berg added.

Eisenhauer said the Christmas tree was a great outdoor display during the Festival of Trees.

“I thought it would add to the seasonal decorations downtown, (and) more importantly it’s a fantastic way to ‘show off’ the product of a Danville business,” Eisenhauer said.

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