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Tradepoint Atlantic continues ‘Star of Bethlehem Steel’ lighting ceremony, but virtually

Owners of the former Sparrows Point steel mill in Dundalk lit the mill's traditional Star of Bethlehem on Tuesday.
Owners of the former Sparrows Point steel mill in Dundalk lit the mill's traditional Star of Bethlehem on Tuesday. (Pamela Wood / Baltimore Sun)

There may not be a trio of wise men or a manger nearby, but in Baltimore County, there will be at least one star shining bright this holiday season.

Tradepoint Atlantic, the shipping hub and logistics center located on the site of the former Bethlehem Steel mill in Sparrows Point, kicked off the holiday season virtually Tuesday with a ceremonial lighting of its 28-foot “Star of Bethlehem Steel.” The star, which weighs 1.5 tons and features 196 bulbs, lit up on the property for the holidays each year from 1978 until 2014.

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The firm that bought the closed steel mill out of bankruptcy to redevelop the property removed the star from the blast furnace before its demolition in 2014, and has held fast to the tradition ever since.

Now, the star adorns the Tradepoint Atlantic Water Tower at a height of about 115 feet, making it visible from the Beltway as well as Key Bridge and over the Patapsco River. Bethlehem Steel workers handcrafted the giant piece four decades ago, and many former employees worked to restore it for Tradepoint Atlantic’s use.

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The star has been updated to use LED lights, which are more energy and cost efficient than incandescent bulbs.

Usually, the annual lighting ceremony draws a crowd. But with cases of the coronavirus, along with hospitalizations and deaths, rising all over Maryland, the company went virtual this year.

"The star of Bethlehem," named after the steel mill's longtime owner, shown in its longtime location, atop the now demolished 'L' blast furnace.
"The star of Bethlehem," named after the steel mill's longtime owner, shown in its longtime location, atop the now demolished 'L' blast furnace. (Gene Sweeney Jr., Baltimore Sun)

“This annual tradition means an incredible amount to the community and the Tradepoint Atlantic team and we are proud to safely continue it, no matter the circumstances,” said Aaron Tomarchio, Tradepoint Atlantic’s senior vice president of corporate affairs. “As custodians of the Bethlehem Steel legacy, we understand just how important this is to the local community and this uniquely Baltimore tradition will endure — even through this pandemic. We will look forward to having an in-person community event again next year.”

The star may be moved to a more permanent and easily accessible location someday, company representatives said in a video presentation released Tuesday on YouTube.

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But for now, it will stay at the heart of the campus — where the mill’s rich legacy can live on, for all to see, at a safe distance.

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