After thousands of dollars and months of rebuilding, the world's tallest thermometer is ready to again light up the skies above Baker and Interstate 15.
It's the fulfillment of a vow made by the family of the late Willis Herron, who built the thermometer in 1991 as a way to draw freeway travelers to the desert town of Baker. Over the years, a combination of changing ownership, poor maintenance and a chaotic economy rendered the once-vibrant, 134-foot thermometer (officially the world's tallest) beaten and powerless.
"A few years ago, my mom and my sisters and I, we went out to Baker … and it actually made my mom cry," said LaRae Harguess, daughter of Willis Herron. "There were still people stopping to take pictures in front of it. She even walked up to one family and apologized … It wasn’t even in our hands anymore, and she said, ‘If I ever get it back, I’ll get it fixed.”
The family ended up regaining possession of the thermometer in March. Harguess said the thermometer has been restored to its former glory, complete with fresh paint. She said her mother put up about $150,000 of her own money toward the resurrection of the thermometer. The thermometer was scheduled to be lit up by Thursday evening.
"We’re hoping that it will do what exactly my dad wanted it to do in the early '90s, and get people off the freeway and into town," she said. "We no longer have any businesses in town. We will open a gift shop … but this time around it is more of getting it up for the town and obviously in memory of my dad and what he wanted."