A bright spot against the night sky

The large wooden star and cross sitting atop Potlatch Ridge outside Juliaetta have provided a bright spot around Christmas and Easter holidays for Juliaetta residents for about 50 years.

Juliaetta Mayor Dick Groseclose, who has served as the town’s mayor the past two years and served on the city council the previous 35, said he makes sure to turn on the cross’ lights about one week before Easter Sunday. The lights remain lit until a couple days after Easter. The star next to it is lit a couple weeks before Christmas and the lights go out shortly after New Year’s Day.

“The townspeople, they really look forward to it,” Groseclose said. “It’s something that’s turned out to be a Juliaetta tradition.”

The lit star and cross can be seen from miles away, but Juliaetta residents seem to have the best view.

Groseclose said the star and cross were constructed together. He said about 110 bright white fluorescent bulbs are attached to the roughly 35-foot structure.

The lights only shine when the sun is down around the time of the two holidays, Groseclose said.

He said all he needs to do is turn the electricity on to activate the lights and a daylight/nighttime sensor on the wooden work of art automatically turns the lights on when the sun sets and turns them off when the sun rises.

“If it’s not on when they think it should be on, well, they’re calling me,” Groseclose said. ” ‘How come the star or the cross isn’t turned on yet? When are you going to do it?’ “

Lara Hadley, owner of the Juliaetta bar, Bottoms Up at the Blackberry, said the star and cross are beautiful from the paved Kendrick-Juliaetta Recreation Trail along the Potlatch River.

“I love looking at it,” Hadley said. “It definitely makes you think of Easter.”

Cassie Cannon, employee at Colter’s Creek Winery in Juliaetta, said the lit star and cross set Juliaetta apart from other towns.

“It’s really a cool tradition,” Cannon said.

Groseclose said he and about six others were inspired to build the star and cross after seeing how beautiful a similar structure looked near the “C” on the Clarkston hillside in the late 1960s.

He said Clarkston’s star and cross are still lit up today.

Groseclose said they built a cross in the late 1960s or early 1970s in the current Potlatch Ridge location, but it blew down two or three times. He said he built the star and cross by himself, again, around 1976.

Since the structure is near the edge of a rocky cliff, Groseclose said he installed more framework and poles in the mid-1970s to make the structure more solid. Despite his best efforts, Groseclose said the structure has even blown down a couple times since then, including during a windstorm five or six years ago, causing Groseclose to rebuild yet again.

Residents were supportive of the rebuild. Groseclose said the townspeople donated enough money to buy the necessary supplies to rebuild the star and cross.

The structure, which is on private property, is a seven-mile drive and then a little less than a one-half mile walk from his Juliaetta home. Groseclose said he has been changing out the burned out light bulbs and doing other maintenance work on the structure since the first cross was built about 50 years ago. He doesn’t plan on giving up on the 50-year tradition anytime soon.

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