High above the welders and framers, the crane stands as the identity of the job site, and at Christmas time, it's not about who has the biggest crane or the tallest crane. It's about who has the best decorations. (KIRO Radio Photo/Chris Sullivan)

'Tis the season for Christmas crane wars along the Seattle skyline

More Photos

See all photos
There's always that one guy in the neighborhood, maybe it's you, that has to out-do everybody else with his Christmas lights. You probably call him "Clark Griswold" behind his back.

But this Christmas competition isn't just for homes or neighborhoods. The companies running those giant construction cranes take their decorations seriously, too.

High above the welders and framers, the crane stands as the identity of the job site, and at Christmastime, it's not about who has the biggest crane or the tallest crane. It's about who has the best decorations.

"With the Christmas lights, those are our swords," said John Schimke, superintendent for GLY construction. His two cranes above South Lake Union feature blue-lit supports and red-lit arms. Each have giant green Christmas trees on top. Schimke said they've been planning the decorations for months.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.

"This year, we added a little extra flavor with the snowman, the 12th Man and the wreath, and there was some planning involved," he said. "That stuff needs to be fabricated and put together in a safe and appropriate fashion."

A few blocks away, James Buehler, the superintendent of JTM Construction, began his preparations in July. He wanted the Seahawks logo in lights, but a copyright got in the way. He decided to put nearly 4,000 lights into a giant 12th Man display.

"We throw some ideas out there and some of them stick," Buehler said. "Obviously, the 12th Man, everybody got really excited about it on the job and wanted to be part of it."

Buehler said he does keep an eye on what the other job sites are doing.

"Seattle's a small town," he said. "We all have friends at other companies that have cranes up. There's a little competition, of course. You want to have the brightest and best crane out there."

He believes his Seahawk blue and green crane is the best. So I asked Schimke for his reaction.

"Timing is everything," Schimke said. "Ours was up first. Ours was up complete, and I've noticed as theirs has come up after ours, it resembles closely to what we had up originally."

Reading between the lines, I believe that means Buehler should have put his lights up first, and Schimke thinks his cranes are better.

You can judge for yourself.

If you're afraid of heights, stringing these lights is probably not a good career choice either.

To get the lights out to the ends of the arms, workers have to climb out about 300 feet while several hundred feet above the ground.

Chris Sullivan, KIRO Radio Reporter
Chris loves the rush of covering breaking news and works hard to try to make sense of it all while telling stories about real people in extraordinary circumstances.
Top Stories

  • Seattle's Historic Eyesore
    In the heart of Seattle, an historic landmark is being called a blight on the city

  • 'Yeah'
    Marshawn Lynch gave a postgame interview that only he could Sunday

  • Pass the Potatoes
    Seattle Kitchen takes 5 Thanksgiving dishes from ordinary to extraordinary
ATTENTION COMMENTERS: We've changed our comments, but want to keep you in the conversation.
Please login below with your Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Disqus account. Existing MyNorthwest account holders will need to create a new Disqus account or use one of the social logins provided below. Thank you.
comments powered by Disqus
Sign up for breaking news e-mail alerts from
In the community
Do you know an exceptional citizen who has impacted and inspired others?
KIRO Radio and WSECU would like to recognize six oustanding citizens this year. Nominate them to be recognized and to receive a $2,000 charitable grant.