ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A long-standing tradition on the Glenn Highway takes on a new look this holiday season.
Jason and Kaye Tolstrup spend Thanksgiving evening lighting up the Glenn Highway Christmas tree. (KTUU)
For years, locals have decorated a Christmas tree near the Old Glenn Highway overpass, bringing holiday cheer to regular commuters. When the original tree reached the end of its life and had to be cut down, Jason Tolstrup was determined to keep the tradition alive.
"It is a tradition at this point,” Tolstrup said. “It's been long enough, I think people expect to see it.”
Needing a replacement for the original tree, Tolstrup found just the thing in a 20-foot high anchored structure which once lit up the streets of downtown Palmer. He’s spent the past few weeks setting up the tree so as not to be late for his returning customers.
"Cars go by and honk, and people tell me how much it means to them to see the tree every day," Tolstrup said. "It makes me happy to do it."
Jason and his wife Kaye Tolstrup spent Thanksgiving night lighting up the 675 feet of lights wrapped around the new tree.
"We've got the green light," Jason said, hooking up to two large batteries. "There it is," he said as hundreds of multi-colored lights flickered to life.
Jason remembers when he started helping with the annual tradition, and the impact it had on him.
"The joy it gave me that some someone would actually give their time and go out there and do that for others ... It touched me," he said. "So then I thought 'You know, it would be neat to do that for other people.'"
Jason's family devotes the entire month of December to maintaining the lights on the Glenn Highway tree.
"One Christmas, a buddy called me around 5:30 in the morning, and the kids wanted to get up at 6:00 and open presents," Jason remembered. "He calls me and says 'Jason, the tree's out.' Shoot ... 'Kids, get up! We've gotta go to the tree!'"
The work, Jason says, is well-worth it when he factors in the joy it brings to others.
"People do show their appreciation, and I love it," he said. "I'll continue to do it."
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