Newly upgraded Kazanzas Star to shine brightly over downtown Orlando

Crews install star Sunday morning

ORLANDO, Fla. – Crews shut down part of downtown Orlando on Sunday morning to install a Christmas tradition: the newly upgraded Jack Kazanzas Christmas star.

Crews and lighting technicians set up a roadblock at Orange Avenue and Central Boulevard to raise the star.

Jim Barrett and Kazanzas used to be neighbors. Barrett came to Orlando from Miami to watch the installation.

"It's Orlando. It's kinda like the fountain downtown. It's part of the history of Orlando, and it's been here for so long," Barrett said. 

The raising of the 600-pound golden star is a tradition going back more than 50 years. Two competing department stores in downtown, Ivey's and Dickson & Ives, joined together in 1955 to hang the Christmas star across Orange Avenue, between the two buildings.

In 1984, after the department stores closed, Kazanzas, who was a lifelong resident of Orlando, raised funds to replace the original Christmas star, which had fallen into disrepair.

Barrett said tradition was so important to Kazanzas. 

"I think, for Jack, his desire was to have a repeat of history, to have something that was the same," Barrett said.

Last year, a transformer blew, and the star stopped shining for a few days during the holidays.

Over the past year, though, the city has upgraded the star, and it will shine brighter than ever. The upgrades include new LED lighting that can change colors, new electrical wiring and new panels on the star.

Cassandra Anne Lafser, the city's press secretary, said the total cost for the upgrades was just under $39,000.

However, the star will be more energy efficient. Lafsar said the city will save an estimated $3,200 in energy savings per year

Crews said there shouldn't be any more issues with the star. 

"They look amazing, the new LED lights. I think Jack would be very happy," Barrett said as he saw the lights turned on for the first time. 

Crowds gathered near the work zone to watch as crews raised the star.

Barrett said the star kicks off the holiday season and it will bring joy to so many people. 

"Though the lighting has changed, the star and the meaning of the star is a tradition for Orlando and he was very adamant about keeping the tradition alive," Barrett said. 

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