The Circle of Lights has been one of Indianapolis’ favorite holiday traditions for decades. The tradition is possible thanks to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 481 (IBEW) volunteer electricians and Downtown Indy, Inc. whose hard work create this magical experience for Hoosiers every year. Throughout the month of December people flock from all over the midwest to visit the Circle of Lights, but did you know that the preparation for this holiday tradition begins as early as January when the lights are dismantled?
This year we sat down with Blake Andrews from the IBEW 481 crew and asked him a few questions about the process of putting the lights up – creating the Circle of Lights.
How long have the electricians of the IBEW 481 been hanging the strings of lights on the Soldiers and Sailors Monument?
Blake: IBEW 481 Members have been putting the lights up since 1962. That was actually the first time the lights were put up on Indianapolis’ beloved Soldiers and Sailors Monument.
How many volunteers assist in the project every year?
Blake: On average, typically there are more than 200 members of the IBEW 481 who show up to help with the installation in November. Then, come January, nearly 150 return to help us take them down and begin preparation for next year.
When does the preparation for the Circle of Lights begin?
Blake: Honestly, preparation begins as soon as we take the lights down each January. The retirees get a rough count on the lamps that will need to be ordered. The ordering is usually done in March. Typically, in October, the retirees take all the stringers to the Fair Grounds and inspect each stringer to make sure that all the lamps are working, and that each stringer works properly. Then on the second Saturday in November, the members of IBEW 481 gather at the Circle to string the lights up.
How many lights are hung around the Soldiers and Sailors Monument?
Blake: There are 52 garland strands with 4,784 colored lights strung from the top of the monument to its base. Each bulb color represents a branch of the US military: Army – green; Air Force – clear; Navy – blue; Coast Guard – yellow and Marines – red.
How long does it take to hang the lights on the Soldiers and Sailors Monument?
Blake: It usually takes about 5 to 6 hours for the installation. We try to get started at 7 am, and are typically packing up for the day and heading out around 1pm.
Thank you to Indianapolis’ very own IBEW 481 electricians who are able to bring such joy to Indianapolis this and every holiday season. Each and every bulb suspended above Monument Circle represents a branch of the US Military, illuminating the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, a symbol of Indianapolis, and a monument that will forever memorialize and honor the many Hoosiers who have sacrificed for our freedoms!
The Lighting Ceremony will take place Friday November 26, 2021 at 7p.m!
Downtown Indy, Inc. and the Indiana War Memorials Commission are excited to invite people back downtown this year for the Circle of Lights – kicking off the holiday season with local acts who were selected during the Tom Wood Talent Search. The Circle of Lights will include a special holiday edition of Shining A Light on Monument Circle.
If you cannot join in person, there will be a special made-for-TV show that can be enjoyed from home on WTHR Channel 13.