Bayway refinery Christmas tree lighting heralds the 2019 holiday season

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News 12's Brian Donohue got to flip the switch and perform the initial 2019 lighting of the Bayway refinery Christmas tree in Linden Wednesday night.

The long tradition started back when the place was owned by Standard Oil.

"It started after World War II after the Allied victory and the soliders coming home from World War II," explained Phillips 66 technical manager John Allen. "The workers here at the refinery wanted to welcome everyone home, so they lit up several of the structures with Christmas lights."

Now Phillips 66 workers keep the tradition alive with a not so simple system of pulleys, cables and lights that run on their own circuit panels.

"Through the years as we change the refinery, we found different objects and structures to put lights on," Allen said.

These days, the decorations drape the 260-foot flare that's visible for miles, heralding the holidays to 269,000 vehicles a day that drive past it just on the Turnpike alone. And it's lit every year on the same day as the tree over in Rockefeller Center in New York City.

Electrical supervisor Ryan Kaulfers is a third-generation Bayway employee who let Donohue have the honors of lighting it up.

"It's cool to be a part of. About 10 years ago, we tried colored lights and we went to turn them on and you couldn't see a thing. so we worked around the clock for about three nights afterwards to get the white lights back up to make everybody happy," Kaulfer said.


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