FVTC students lighting up Appleton history

December 13, 2012

From AppletonPostCrescent.com: “‘Light Up the Fox’ project aims to highlight Appleton history.” — A nonprofit organization plans to harness the same magical power that paper manufacturer H.J. Rogers captured with his hydroelectric plant in 1882 when it erects lighted sculptures along the Fox River.

“Light Up the Fox” is working to make the sparkling illuminated displays a reality at Atlas Mill, Vulcan Park and the Paper Discovery Center next year.

“We want to point out Appleton has this amazing early history of hydroelectric power with Hearthstone, the first electrically lit hotel and streetcar,” said Keith Powell, a volunteer with the new group.

The organization has attained $7,600 of its $11,000 fundraising goal. Plans call for the switch to flip in December 2013, said Barb Sauer, the group’s president.

The main focus of the displays is on history and the community, Sauer said. The group has not decided whether to use the lights during the holidays.

“We want to make it not only a light celebration, but shedding light on the Fox River and its heritage,” Sauer said. “We want to intersperse some celebrations throughout the whole year and are thinking about a night bike ride in the summer.”

The group will hold a kickoff event on New Year’s Eve. It will include a candle procession across the river, Sauer said.

Mike Cattelino, a volunteer with the group and associate dean of manufacturing and agriculture technologies at Fox Valley Technical College, is already working with students to design displays that will be synchronized to music. The lights display has drawn inspiration from the Green Bay Botanical Gardens in and Celebration of Lights at Menominee Park in Oshkosh.

“The technology involved is really an industrial-based control system, inputs and outputs, turning lights on and off, and making them dim and sparkle in ways they’re not programmed to do,” Cattelino said. “The electrical consumption is amazing low with high-efficiency, LED lights.”

The project got a boost this fall with a $5,000 matching donation from Faith Technologies, a Menasha-based electrical contractor. Matt Sabee, an Appleton service manager with Faith, led the company’s partnership with the nonprofit.

“We’d like to get students get involved right away when it comes to programming the lights to music, and making the controllers with relays,” Sabee said. “Then down the road we’ll roll in the historical educational with facts about the river, what’s it’s done to help our area, and boost manufacturing.”

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers also donated $2,500 to the campaign this year. Sabee said the group is looking for more volunteers to help organize, market and create the displays. By waiting until after the holiday, the group hopes to save money on light supplies. Sauer said she’s eager to organize more volunteers and get programs planned for 2013.

“Every time I mention our plan to someone in the community there’s such an excited response. We’re seeing a lot of energy behind it already,” Sauer said. “It’s all about doing good for the community, having fun and celebrating the river.”



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