Yesteryear: The story behind Kingman's Radar Hill tree

Lauren Fanire with her grandfather, Don, after visiting the Miner last week. Lauren’s grandfather and her late-grandmother Elinore initially approached the Downtown Merchants to have her light the tree when she was a baby. (RYAN ABELLA/Miner)<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->

Lauren Fanire with her grandfather, Don, after visiting the Miner last week. Lauren’s grandfather and her late-grandmother Elinore initially approached the Downtown Merchants to have her light the tree when she was a baby. (RYAN ABELLA/Miner)<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->

Of all the Kingman holiday traditions sprinkled throughout the season, perhaps the one most visible to the public is the lighted tree perched atop Radar Hill.

The tree lights up every year the day before Thanksgiving, turning on promptly at 6 p.m. every night through New Year's Day. The tree stands 90 feet tall and can be seen by most of Kingman on any given night.

When driving into town via Interstate 40 from the east, the tree is usually the first structure travelers see, peeking above the horizon as cars travel over the hill.

The tree on Radar Hill has illuminated the winter skies of Kingman for the last 27 years and, like many traditions, spawned from a humble beginning nearly perfect for the season.

The tree was turned on for the first time on Dec. 17, 1987, and the person who flipped the switch was a 3-year-old girl battling cancer.

Friday, Dec. 18, 1987

Smile lights up tot's face at tree-lighting ceremony

By Clint Wolf

Miner Staff Writer

Christmas for a 3-year-old Kingman girl became a little brighter Thursday when she was chosen to throw the switch to light the Community Friendship Tree on Radar Hill.

Lauren Fanire, daughter of Ron and Michelle Fanire of Kingman, was designated to light the tree Thursday evening when officials from the City of Kingman and the Downtown Merchants Association gathered on Pico Street to throw the switch.

Lauren is a victim of leukemia. Her grandparents, Don and Elinore Fanire, contacted city officials asking if the girl could be part of the tree-lighting ceremony.

City officials and the Downtown Merchants Association decided a special Christmas gift was in order and the child's parents readily agreed to have Lauren light the tree.

Lauren accepted the task with great enthusiasm.

"I could barely get her to eat her dinner - she was so excited," Michelle Fanire said about her daughter's excitement over the event. "She wanted to get dressed and get down here right away."

Little Lauren's face lit up when Kingman Mayor Jerry Wienke lifted her to pull the switch Thursday evening. Other officials present at the tree lighting ceremony were City Manager Lou Sorensen, Downtown Merchants Association President John Steckman and Hal Garringer of Citizens Utilities Electric company.

Although the night was cloudy and wet, the excitement was not dampened.

The tree project was spearheaded by Steckman and the Downtown Merchants Association. The idea was to place the tree atop Radar Hill for all the community to see during the holiday season, according to Steckman.

Citizens Utilities Electric Co., Western Electronics, other community businesses and groups were also helpful in providing materials, labor and aid in installing the tree. The tree is made of a pole and several lighted guy wires, giving it a Christmas tree appearance.

Funding for the tree is being solicited from community groups and individuals to defray the costs of electrical fees, according to Steckman.

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Young Lauren was diagnosed with leukemia at 11 months old and would battle it for nearly 10 years before it went into remission. She ended up staying in Kingman and still lives here today, where she is now raising a son.

"The family always told me I was the one to light it," said Lauren last week at the Miner. "I see it every year and tell people about it. I tell him (her son) all the time about the tree."

She didn't know at the time that it would still be around 27 years later. The then-Kingman City Manager Lou Sorensen did, though. He called it the very next year.

"It's one of the neatest things I've seen in a long time," said Sorensen in the Miner on Dec. 1, 1988. "We really ought to make a tradition out of it."

The tree remains pretty much the same as it did in 1987. A 15-foot extension was added to the top of the tree in April of 1996 to display an Olympic flame when the Olympic Torch relay came through Kingman. The extension eventually became the star at the top.

Citizens Utilities maintained the tree for many years. UniSource eventually took over the tree in 2003 and has been maintaining it ever since.

The Chamber of Commerce supports the electric bill to keep the more than 200 light bulbs illuminated throughout the season.

This year, UniSource replaced the bulbs with standard-fitted CFLs, which give a different effect and save on electrical costs.