Roanoke’s iconic Mill Mountain Star celebrates 70th birthday

The landmark that gave the “Star City” its name was first illuminated November 23, 1949

ROANOKE, Va. – The Mill Mountain Star has now been shining down upon the Roanoke Valley for 70 years.

Roanoke commemorated the landmark’s birthday with a ceremony at the star’s overlook Friday morning.

The 88-foot star, which is the largest free-standing man-made star in the world, first illuminated Roanoke on November 23, 1949.

The star was built by Roy, Warren and Bob Kinsey as a giant Christmas decoration. Roy’s daughter, Mary Stuart Link, said he got the idea to build a star after a road trip in Texas.

“He saw a star on the side of the mountain and it just made a huge impression on him," Link said. "He came back here and wanted to share that with his city.”

Since then, both the star and its overlook on Mill Mountain have become so popular, Roanoke is commonly called the “Star City.”

“I’ve heard my dad say he never thought it would catch on and become as important to the people of Roanoke as it did,” Link said.

The Roanoke Star is usually lit up with white neon; however, the colors switch to red, white, and blue for occasions such as Veterans Day and Independence Day. The star has only been dark two times in recent years: after the Virginia Tech mass shooting in 2007, and to memorialize Roy Kinsey when he died in 2015.

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