Sitting atop Mill Mountain Park, the Roanoke Star is a regional icon and popular tourist attraction.
The Roanoke Star’s History
The Roanoke Star was initially created to be a seasonal Christmas decoration intended to shine over the city during the holiday shopping season. Sponsored by the Roanoke Merchants Association, the Roanoke Star was supposed to be dismantled in 1950 after the holiday season was over.
Designed and built by Roy C. Kinsey, former owner of Kinsey Sign Co., and his two sons, the Roanoke Star is actually three stars combined to make a single star. Each frame contains three to five sets of clear neon tubes. In total, the Roanoke Star has 2,000 feet of neon tubes. Weighing 10,000 pounds, the Roanoke Star sits 1,847 feet above sea level and towers 1,045 feet above the City of Roanoke. The star cost $28,000 to build.
The First Lighting Ceremony
It was lit for the first time at 8:22 p.m. on Nov. 23, 1949 by Roanoke Mayor A. R. Minton. John Payne, a Roanoke native and Hollywood star, traveled to attend the formal lighting ceremony. Less than 100 people braved the cold on Thanksgiving Eve to celebrate the Roanoke Star lighting.
What color is the Roanoke Star?
The Roanoke Star was originally all white. Over the past decade, however, Roanoke’s City Council has chosen to change the star’s color on three occasions:
- In September, 2001, Council decided to change the Roanoke Star’s colors to red, white and blue to honor those affected by the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001
- In April 2007, the star remained white from April 22 to May 24 in honor of the victims from the Virginia Tech shooting
- On April 16, 2008, the Roanoke Star went dark on the first anniversary of the Virginia Tech shooting
The Roanoke Star is currently white year-round, with the exception of Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, Sept. 11 and Veteran’s Day. On these special occasions, the star is illuminated in red, white and blue to demonstrate the region’s patriotism.