January 9, 2011 in City

Water tower Oregon town’s beacon

Changing lights ‘like a living piece of art’
Register-Guard (Eugene, Ore.)
Associated Press photo

A Junction City, Ore., water tower lights up on Dec. 31.
(Full-size photo)

JUNCTION CITY, Ore. – She was still Danuta Ryklo back then, and she’d only been on one date with the guy, sailing on Fern Ridge Lake. He asked her to meet him later that night, at the Scandinavian Festival in Junction City, beneath the town’s iconic water tower.

But Ryklo was new to Lane County at the time, and she lived in Veneta. She had no idea how to get to Junction City, much less find the water tower. He waited until midnight. She didn’t show.

It didn’t keep Robin Pfeiffer from proposing 12 days later, and the pair are happily married today, 16 years later. Even though she stood him up, Danuta Pfeiffer said the water tower still means something to her.

“It’s always had a special place in my heart,” she said.

And the next time someone proposes a late-night rendezvous there, not being able to find it will be a poor excuse.

Pfeiffer is part of Energize Junction City, a tourism-promoting group that has affixed a snazzy array of 22 LED fixtures on the tower. They put out a “hypnotic” array of color combinations, so varied that “you’d have to stand there for an hour to watch it repeat itself,” Pfeiffer said.

It’s 21st century window dressing, and Pfeiffer and others are hoping the lights add some character to a town struggling to draw tourists, businesses and residents as the economy slowly rebounds and Junction City transforms itself from a place that relied on RV sales and manufacturing to something different.

“It’s a landmark in the city,” Pfeiffer said of the tower. “These lights will change people’s perception about where they live.”

The energy-efficient display uses less than 400 watts of power at full tilt, said John Swan of Conrich Electric LLC, the Eugene firm that installed the system. However, it’s powerful enough to dress up the water tower in lights that could mirror any season.

“It’s like a living piece of art,” Swan said. “We’re basically painting with light, without any mess. You can’t take your eyes off it.”

It started with Christmas hues, but on New Year’s Eve, the beams were arranged to make the tower look like fireworks.

On Sunday night, the colors were soft, their transitions a subtle fade from purple into blue, then white, green and yellow. The lights surround the circumference of the tower and the structure that supports it.

“There’s almost a limit-less variety of light we can play with,” Pfeiffer said. “If the Ducks win on Jan. 10, we’ll make it green.”

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