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Roanoke Star by Craig Simonds


            The Roanoke Star, also known as the Mill Mountain Star, is the best known landmark of Roanoke.  The image of it is popular on items sold around the city, from shirts to key chains.  It sits atop Mill Mountain in Roanoke, and is the largest freestanding, illuminated man-made star in the world.  The Roanoke Star was constructed in 1949, and remains lit at all times (except during power outages or upgrades).  Generally, the star is lit in red and white.  During times of tragedy, the colors are changed.  Because of the star, Roanoke has been nicknamed “The Star City of the South.”

            The Roanoke Star is made of about 20,000 feet of neon tubing and stands nearly 90 feet tall.  The star weighs about 10,000 pounds and can be seen for about 60 miles. The star was constructed by Kinsey Sign Co.  Originally, the Roanoke Star was only supposed to be lit during the holiday season, but it was so popular that the city council changed their minds and kept it lit year round (playroanoke.com). 

            The Roanoke Star is a popular destination for many reasons; it is a symbol of the city, and many people from out to town come to see it, it offers a beautiful view of the city, it is a popular meeting place or date site for Roanoke citizens, and there are other attractions and activities to participate in close by or connected to it.  A small zoo named Mill Mountain Zoo is near the star at the summit of Mill Mountain.  There is also the Mill Mountain Star Trail, which goes from the Roanoke River to the Roanoke Star.  Along the trail there are parklands, picnic areas, and overlooks.  The trail is between three and four miles round trip, and is considered to be of moderated difficulty.  There is also access to other trails (roanokeoutside.com).

            The view of the Roanoke City from the star is one of the most beautiful views in the area.  The Blue Ridge Mountains line the horizon, and their foothills roll languidly through the city and the surrounding areas.  Patches of green break up the urban center and separate it from the surrounding areas.  Groves of trees and fields surround the developed centers of town, and buildings and clusters of buildings peek out from within them.  At night, the view is spectacular as well.  The shadow of the mountains stands out against the slightly lighter sky in the distance.  The downtown area is lit up and can be seen clearly, and lights from the neighborhoods and other parts of town are scattered throughout the area in ordered randomness like clusters of stars at twilight before all of them can be seen.  The Well’s Fargo tower and other recognizable buildings stand out and glow against the background of smaller, darker structures and natural formations.  The car’s headlights along 5-81 make it iridescent as it borders the downtown and cuts through groves of trees and fields leading to other portions of Roanoke. 

            The Roanoke Star is easy to get to.  There is a parking lot directly beside it, so traveling to it by car is simple.  There are benches around the man-made overlook and railings that encase it.  Nearly any time of day (until the park closes at 11pm and the star is turned off at midnight) people can be seen gathering around the overlook and in front of the star to take pictures.

The Roanoke Star is a frequented by locals and is a popular tourist destination.  It is a great place to take friends or family from town, out of town, or dates to look out and appreciate the beautiful city of Roanoke.