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Hazen Paper of Holyoke’s holographic handiwork makes 16th straight Super Bowl appearance

The cover of this year’s in-stadium Super Bowl LIII program has the Lombardi Trophy with Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the background and a multicolored carpet of prismatic light in the foreground.

Reflected in the trophy is the skyline of Atlanta. Clouds float by. There are starbursts of bright light flashing overhead.

Pretty cool, especially for an image created out of an aluminum layer that is less than 1/20th of a human hair thick.

“Yet you feel you could reach your hand in and touch the Lombardi Trophy,” said John H. Hazen president of the Hazen Paper Co. on South Water Street in Holyoke, which has made metallic three-dimensional holographic covers for Super Bowl programs since 2004.

Ninety-four-year-old Hazen Paper has 200 employees, about 150 of them in Holyoke, and is the only North American company that designs, creates and reproduces these holographic images on one manufacturing campus.

They also have a warehouse operation in the Housatonic section of Great Barrington.

Robert E. Hazen, executive vice president for sales and marketing, said having all the aspects of the process in one place means Hazen can turn around a project more quickly than its competitors.

That’s important because Hazen typically doesn’t get to see the cover artwork, approved by the NFL and publisher H.O. Zimman Inc., of Lynn, until after Thanksgiving. Then Hazen designs a holographic image that enhances the artwork — in this case adding the starburst, clouds and the lattice of tiny prisms that make up the foreground — and gets it approved by Zimman and the NFL.

After they get the OK, Hazen employees, working inside a clean room at its North Plant on Main Street, prepare the holographic paper. The plant runs 24 hours a day five or six days a week.

Employees wear hairnets and clean suits, John Hazen said.

“When you are working in microns, a single hair falling into the work is like dropping a telephone pole,” he said.

The aluminum is vaporized and applied to special paper using a vacuum process. So little aluminum is used that the paper is conventionally recyclable and the amount of metal in a single beverage can would cover a football field if it was rolled this thin.

Once this process is completed, sheets of paper embossed with the holographic image are trucked to a printing plant in Kentucky, Robert Hazen said. The paper is heat sensitive, so it gets shipped in heated trucks so it’s the right temperature when it arrives.

There, printers get ready to add the white and four-color printed material to the cover. Only one thing: The covers arrive a week before the NFC and AFC championship games, which determine the two teams that go to the Super Bowl.

Which logos to put on the page proofs so editors can see what they look like?

“They picked the Patriots because they knew I’d have to give it an OK,” John Hazen said. “They used the Rams logo because someone there likes the Rams.”

Those were two pretty good guesses considering the two championship games each went into overtime and the Rams versus Saints NFC contest included a controversial officiating decision that many say cost the Saints a trip to the Super Bowl.

Hazen works on a tight timeline every year not just because no one knows for sure — besides the Patriots — who will be in the Super Bowl. But everything must be approved by the NFL, and advertisers for the back cover and inside covers sign on at the last moment.

John N. Hazen started Hazen Paper Company in Holyoke in 1925 as a decorative paper converter and embosser. It’s still a family company. John and Robert’s grandfathers were brothers.

They set up the holographic lab in 2005 (they worked with another vendor before opening their own lab) and have expanded it steadily over the years, adding clean room equipment dedicated to research and development.

Besides the Super Bowl program, Hazen makes holographic paper for high-denomination lottery tickets and for packaging including DVD boxed sets.

Hazen won awards this year for its work in the makeup industry for the Kat Von D “Metal Crush” limited-edition powder highlighter carton.

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