The Kazanzas Star History
Know what this world needs? More Christmas decorations and feel-good stories. And we’ve got one for you, courtesy of Orlando Sentinel reporter and local historian Joy Dickinson, who shared some of the Kazanzas Star history with us.
We have two people to thank for that 13-foot golden star hanging above Orange Avenue year after year. One is Wilson Reed and the other is Jack Kazanzas, the man pictured above and from whom the star gets its name.
City officials hang the holiday icon during the holidays as it has done for the last 65 years. You might notice it’s shining a little brighter this year after being decked out in new 4,000 LED lights.
Dickinson detailed the star’s connection to Kazanzas, a 1948 graduate of Orlando High School and a big champion of the City Beautiful. Kazanzas, who died in 2010, helped revitalize the star back in 1984 and then preserved it again in 1998 when it was almost replaced with newer decorations.
“Orlando’s been everything to me,” he once told a Sentinel reporter. “I’ve watched it grow and change, and I’d just like to hold on to some of the things I remember for Christmas.”
According to Dickinson, the original version of the star first appeared in December 1955, suspended from buildings that housed busy department stores: Ivey’s on the east and Dickson & Ives on the west. The stores competed all year, but Dickson & Ives’ owner, Wilson Reed, had a vision to “light up the Christmas season with something spectacular.” He joined forces with Ivey’s to make it happen, and so in Dec. 1955, a star was born.
Then in 1984, after years of economic decline, the larger, 600-pound star resembling today’s current version debuted. This happened concurrently with the city’s push to revitalize the downtown area thanks in part to Kazanzas’ fundraising efforts.
When the city talked of installing newer decorations in 1998, Kazanzas once again stepped in to save it — the star only got bigger and better from there.
Check it out for yourself in December. It’s exceptional at night, but there’s something about that golden hour where it really shines the most.