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Archive for Sunday, January 27, 2002

s dream

January 27, 2002

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— What's 1,132 feet tall and three football fields in diameter, contains 200 million pounds of wax and would cost nearly a billion dollars? A giant candle, of course.

Steve Cloyd wants to build the monument to American history, titled "America's Light of Freedom," on 500 acres near this central Kansas town. He's been scoping the area for 2 1/2 years.

Kansas, he said, is the perfect place. It's in the middle of the country and has flat, solid land without any of the clutter skyscrapers give his hometown of New York City.

The 54-year-old former candle store co-owner said he has grown accustomed to mockery.

The hardest part of pitching the project, which would feature floor after floor of museums? "You've got to make sure they don't think you're drunk," Cloyd said.

He hopes the candle, with an 80-foot wick and an eternal flame 60 feet high, will be built with donations from citizens and corporations. Cloyd said companies already have given him about $250,000, which has gone toward travel and planning expenses.

"I have no concern about money," he said. "I think people will come forward and help build this."

Cloyd said he found Halstead on the Internet and contacted Chamber of Commerce member LaDawna Friesen. She invited Cloyd, his wife, Debbie, and their twin 16-year-old sons, Kevin and Kyle, to this town of 2,000 people about three months ago.

Mayor Bill Ewert said he wishes Cloyd well on the project, which Cloyd said would take at least three years to build.

"It certainly would bring a lot of tourists to our area of the state," Ewert said. "We're lucky that he's chosen this part of Kansas."

County officials, among others, are not so sure the glass-encased candle fits into the region's long-term plans.

"Obviously this would require a zoning change," said Rod Compton, Harvey County Planning and Zoning director. "You're talking about an area where there's essentially nothing but farmland. This big proposal could totally alter the area forever."

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