The Giant Snowflakes Hanging Over NYC and LA [Kicking Back with Jersey Joe] Dec21

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The Giant Snowflakes Hanging Over NYC and LA [Kicking Back with Jersey Joe]

I first saw the giant illuminated snowflake hanging over 57th Street & 5th Avenue in New York City as a tourist well over a decade ago. It hangs right over the bustling flow of traffic and pedestrians. At the time, I thought it was only a cool decoration, but it turns out, this illuminated piece of frozen precipitation is helping a lot of children around the world.

Get anywhere near the area and you’ll see tourists snapping photos, pedestrians looking up and cars slowing down. You can see it from blocks away. There’s no way you can miss this seeing giant snowflake!

First erected in 1984, the dazzling snowflake quickly became a tourist attraction. In 2002, it was officially rededicated the “UNICEF Snowflake” by the Stonbely Family, to raise money and awareness for the organization. It acts as a beacon of peace for children around the world.

When first constructed, it featured 12,000 handcrafted crystal prisms, was 17’ x 14’, weighed 1,600 pounds, and had 125 lights.  It was designed by Douglas Leigh, who also had a hand in designing lighting schemes for many New York City skyscrapers.

UNICEF was created by the United Nations in 1946 to provide food and medical care for children in countries that were ravaged by World War II. Their work still continues providing education, nutrition, health care and sanitation to children in developing countries. UNICEF’s goal is to have zero children die from preventable causes.

Each year, the flake is illuminated from Black Friday through end of January.

The lighting ceremony is kicked off with a star studded black tie ball featuring appearances from big named celebrities.  In 2011, Angie Harmon had the honor of throwing the switch. This year, Katy Perry, Selena Gomez, Matt Lauer, Tony Bennett and many more were in attendance.

The second UNICEF snowflake hanging over 57th Street & 5th Avenue, New York City

In 2005, the entire snowflake was completely replaced and redesigned. The new design, by acclaimed lighting designer Ingo Maurer and French luxury goods company Baccarat, features 16,000 crystal prisms. It is 23’ x 28’, weighs more than 3,300 pounds, and has more than 3,000 lights. It is the world’s largest outdoor chandelier.

The original flake still continues to shine bright on the other coast. It was shipped to Los Angeles, where it now hangs high above the Beverly Wilshire on Rodeo Drive. 300 high powered flashing LED lights were added to sparkle up the Ritzy shopping destination.

The snowflakes have raised over $19 million for children in need. Not too bad for a light hanging above an intersection!

THE 411

Name: UNICEF snowflake
What: giant outdoor chandelier, illuminated during the holidays
Location: New York City and Los Angeles

To make a donation:


Man, this thing really sticks out in the middle of a Manhattan street. If you’re hitting the town and are anywhere near the Louis Vuitton flagship or Tiffany & Co. stores – look up. You’ll understand how this giant chandelier over traffic is impacting a lot of lives. If you’re in LA, check out the original version, in Beverly Hills.

While you can see the snowflake during the day, the true magic happens when the lights go on at night!

Image credits: wallyg, ralph and jenny, and John Wisniewski

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