Downtown Chapel Hill

Downtown Blog

Chapel Hill Shines Brighter This Holiday Season

36 Dimming Franklin Snowflakes Updated for the Holidays

Franklin Street is aglow with 36 snowflakes along the popular commercial street in Chapel Hill.  As holiday shoppers make their way to Franklin Street for local shopping and dining, taking advantage of free weekend parking during the month of December, they may notice that these decorations are much brighter than in previous seasons.

The dimming bulbs in the six-foot tall decorations were reaching the end of their lifespan. When the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership purchased the snowflakes in 2008, they were early-adopters of efficient LED technology. However, those LED bulbs were well beyond their predicted lifespan of 20,000 hours after almost ten years in use.

In need of an upgrade, the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership reached out to Mike Ray at MOSCA Designs, the North Carolina-based commercial decorations company who manufactured the original snowflakes. MOSCA Designs began decorating lampposts in Gastonia, North Carolina in 1928, and they’ve maintained operations in North Carolina since.

“The Diamond Snowflake has 84 bulbs on each decoration,” said Ray.  “Multiplied for all of downtown, over 3,000 light bulbs needed replacing.” Mike Ray also said that the Partnership could have replaced all of the fixtures instead but at a much greater cost. He added that new LED bulbs and fixtures no longer use a special transformer that was required with the older bulbs.

Alex Rike, Program Manager at Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership, wanted to see brighter decorations in downtown, but he was surprised by the number of factors to consider. “The new bulbs are brighter and even more efficient. They should last another five years if not longer,” he said, “but we had to talk to a lot of folks to make sure that this was going to work.”

Ray Gornto of the Town of Chapel Hill’s Public Works Department also provided feedback for the retrofit, and he and his crew are responsible for the installation of the snowflakes on the Town’s light poles. The snowflakes will remain on display through early January. 

Meg McGurk, the Executive Director of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership is pleased with the feedback about the snowflakes so far. “We say that downtown Chapel Hill shines bright every holiday season because of the great window displays and decorations, the tree lighting ceremony, and a variety of arts events and holiday tasting menus,” she said. “But it also has a lot to do with the desire to celebrate the holidays as a community in Chapel Hill, and the snowflake retrofit represented a community effort.”