The artist behind the "Rainier R"

The artist behind the "Rainier R"

SEATTLE - The Rainier R is one of Seattle's signature signs -- but if you get the chance to see it up close, you'll realize it's more than a Seattle icon.

"It's almost like a sculpture, like a piece of art," Kelsey Fernkopf, the neon expert who restored the R, said.

Fernkopf runs Western Neon, and he's the man in charge of giving the big red R it's big red glow. Evening talked to Fernkopf during his restoration of the R last year.

"There's about 250 feet of glass tubing in the R itself, and I bent all of them," Fernkopf said.

The original Rainier R lit the South Seattle skyline from 1953 to 2000. After the Rainier Brewery closed, it retired to the museum of history and industry. Now, thanks to Fernkopf, the sign's been back up for one year.

"Oh yeah, it's a big deal," Fernkopf said. "It's an iconic sign, and it's wonderful that we got the deal, with PBR, and Columbia Distributing, and MOHAI has been involved, it's a really big deal."

Restoring the R involved fire, fingers, and even breath to coax glass into the right shape. Then, it took 25 thousand volts to light the tube.

"It's amazing, it's like magic, because when you think about it, glass is actually a liquid at all times," Fernkopf said. "So we're working with a liquid that's like a solid, putting gas in there, then using electricity to make it all happen. So it's really, it's really amazing."

Now, Fernkopf has the bragging rights he looked forward to a year ago, as the Rainier R paints Seattle's skyline red once again.

"I was over in West Seattle visiting friends, and I told them, 'You're gonna drive by that every day, and you're gonna say Kelsey made that!'"

Rainier Beer is hosting R Day, a celebration for the anniversary of the R in Seattle on Oct. 21 from 5 p.m. to 11p.m..

 

Evening is your guide to Seattle and the Pacific Northwest.   Watch it weeknights at 7:30 on KING 5 TV or streaming live on KING5.com.  Connect with Evening via FacebookTwitterInstagram or email: eveningtips@king5.com.

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