(PALMER LAKE, Colo.) — We Are Tri-Lakes and The Palmer Lake Star at 500 Highland Road lies on a steep 58 percent slope of Sundance Mountain.
The Palmer Lake Star usually shines brightly throughout the month of December. When lit, the star is visible from I-25 and Colorado Highway 105. The star can even be seen by aircraft.
In 1935 during the Great Depression, Bert Sloan and other visionaries gathered at Sloan’s Cafe where they drafted a large glowing monument to demonstrate the determination and pride of those living there.
Mountain Utilities, the Palmer Lake Volunteer Fire Department, the Palmer Lake Historical Society, and countless local volunteers have been responsible for the construction and maintenance of the star for more than 80 years.
The Star was completed in 1935 in a matter of three months.
Local volunteers including; Gilbert Wolf, Floyd Bellinger, George Sill, Jess Krueger, B.E. Jack, Bert Sloan, and even Sloan’s German Shepherd named Dizzy, hauled supplies up the side of Sundance Mountain to complete the job. “The town owns it, but the Palmer Lake Fire Department, they’re the caretakers,” Jim Sawatzki local film director of ‘Star on Sundance’ said.
Star keepers are what Sawatzki calls them after he and his wife unknowingly started renting a house beneath the star in 1975. “We didn’t know there was a star up there,” Sawatzki explained. “I didn’t know what it was until I started asking people ‘what were those lights?’ and they said, well there’s this giant star on the side of a mountain.”
The 457-foot-wide star was built in 1935 to spur civic pride during the Great Depression and represents the Star of Bethlehem. It is lit throughout each December. Sawatzki like many others became a keeper of the star by volunteering with the Palmer Lake Fire Department. “I lived so close so I volunteered to do it and so for about three years we changed the light bulbs on the star,” Sawatzki said.
Like Sawatzki, many have lived beneath the star but none compare to Harry Krueger. “Born and raised in Palmer Lake Colorado and I live underneath the Star and I’ve been taking care of that sucker since I was born,” Krueger said.
Krueger who passed in 2015 was the star’s on-site caretaker and the son of one of the star’s original builders. His story continues to be told in the film ‘Star on Sundance.’ “My father was on the Palmer Lake Fire Department and the fire department were the ones who took the bull by the horns so to speak,” Krueger explained.
Krueger says the star was complete after three months of determination to go bigger than a nearby rival.
“They said they could outdo Castle Rock by building a nicer star in Palmer Lake so that’s what they did,” Krueger said.
The Palmer Lake Star was publicly lit for the first time on Christmas 1935 and the 88 years since firefighters of Palmer Lake continue to keep a close watch. “We really don’t want it to ever, you know be seen taken away or removed, so again that’s to the community our promise to make sure that beacon of light always stays there,” Matthew Gladin, Palmer Lake Volunteer Fire Department said.
Jim Sawatzki, a local film producer and director from Palmer Lake, completed a documentary, Star on Sundance, describing the star’s history and the people who live beneath it. You can view the full film by heading to Swatzki’s website.