WE say: austin hol­i­days

Trail of Lights features old and new

Austin American-Statesman - - VIEWPOINTS - Coming mon­day


back, Trail of Lights. Af­ter a two-year ab­sence, the pop­u­lar event and Austin tra­di­tion re­turns. The lights — nearly 1 mil­lion of them spread along a 1.25-mile path in Zilker Park — go on Sun­day. The event, or­ga­niz­ers say, will blend some of the old with the new for a fuller, more en­ter­tain­ing hol­i­day ex­pe­ri­ence that cel­e­brates Austin.

We like where they’re go­ing with that.

There will be many old-school dis­plays in the 36 ex­hibits spread across the trail, but some of those now will be pow­ered with en­ergy-ef­fi­cient LED bulbs that burn brighter, yet use 75 per­cent less en­ergy. That is an im­prove­ment. It will feel more like an event with 20 food trail­ers on site and a lot more en­ter­tain­ment lined up for its run through Dec. 23. In an ef­fort to raise com­mu­nity aware­ness, 20 non­prof­its will be part of the event.

“It has taken many hands to make th­ese lights work,” said Jay Wat­son, CEO of Fore­front Austin, an or­ga­nizer of the event. “The next step is to turn them on. We want to bring the com­mu­nity to­gether and have a good time.”

Each night will fea­ture a theme, kick­ing off Sun­day with “Light it Up!” Open­ing night fes­tiv­i­ties in­clude per­for­mances by lo­cal en­ter­tain­ers. That will be fol­lowed on Mon­day with “Heroes Night,” saluting mem­bers of the mil­i­tary and pub­lic ser­vice Rep. Myra Crownover of Denton, chair­woman of the Repub­li­can cau­cus in the Texas House, and Rep.Trey Martinez Fis­cher of San An­to­nio, chair­man of the Mex­i­can-Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Cau­cus, com­ment on the up­com­ing ses­sion.On the View­points page. em­ploy­ees. The cost is free, so bring the fam­ily and stay awhile. For more in­for­ma­tion, go to austin­trailoflights. org.

What the pub­lic won’t see is the hard work of or­ga­niz­ers, fundrais­ers and many vol­un­teers who stepped up to res­ur­rect the trail af­ter the city cut it from its bud­get. For many years the city spent about $1 mil­lion to pro­duce the Trail of Lights, a long­stand­ing Austin tra­di­tion along with set­ting up the Zilker Tree, with its lights strung on a 155-foot pole. The city con­tin­ued the lat­ter but ul­ti­mately al­lowed the Trail of Lights to go dark in 2010 to di­vert more money to main­tain­ing city parks.

It was a de­ci­sion that left a void in Austin’s hol­i­day sea­son. City of­fi­cials hoped that pri­vate spon­sors would pick up the slack, which they have done. It will cost $1.2 mil­lion to keep those lights twin­kling, much of which has been raised from pri­vate donors, big and small.

“I’m very grate­ful for the com­mit-

This year’s Trail of Lights in­cludes nearly 1 mil­lion lights in 36 ex­hibits in Zilker Park. The lights are en­ergy-ef­fi­cient LED bulbs.

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