March 9, 2008
Written by Cory Chandler
Red Raiders enjoy holiday lights each year thanks to the efforts of the Texas Tech Building Maintenance and Construction Section. For three years, Kyle Cooper has made sure all 25,000 lights are strung correctly and working properly. The mechanical superintendent at Texas Tech’s Physical Plant, Cooper oversees months of labor that go into putting Will Rogers in a ring of holiday fire and credits the skill and dedication of Electric Shop employees for making it happen.
You climb up, you go down. You move the ladder. You climb.
But it’s not like you’re on the ladder all the time. It’s sporadic. Some roofs are flat. You can get up and just walk the strings down. Math, for instance. You can do most of the work by walking on that building. We have a lift to move people from one location to another. So you’re not on the ladder eight hours a day.
There are 25,000 lights to string. That’s a lot of lights. We start by pulling out the spools, going through, putting new lights in the sockets. It usually doesn’t take long. We have one guy feeding bulbs in while the others hang.
It takes us around two months to put up the lights if everything goes well. Bringing them down? We’re looking at anywhere from two weeks to a month.
This year we started stringing during the last week in September. Since then we’ve been going every day.
We hit the lower areas first – everything we can reach without having to use the lift. There are anchors already attached to the buildings, so we just tie the bulbs to them. After we finish the lower level, we go around a second time with the lift and put lights up at the higher elevations.
Then we schedule an evening to turn on the lights and do a quick drive around campus to see how many bulbs need replacing. We do that three-to-four days before the event so we have ample time to get everything working.
How many do we have to replace? That depends on the weather. High winds can be a problem, hail. If we’ve had storms with high winds we may have to bring our entire electrical shop out just to re-lamp. Vandalism – we’ve had that in the past. People walk by and thump the bulbs, break them.
That’s the moment everyone’s come for, stood and shivered hours for. Everything else is wonderful – the singing, the Masked Rider in the lighted cape, the parade of torches. But it’s the collective “ah,” the tingle of electricity that arcs down the spine when 25,000 colored lights spring on in unison, as if ambushing the night, that truly crowns the Carol of Lights. That’s when the holiday season officially begins on the Texas Tech campus.
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