Consider weeknight to avoid long lines
nent electrical upgrades to the park that will be used throughout the year. He estimated the set-up work that Grand Prairie does would cost nearly $500,000 if the city paid someone else to do it.
“The first year you have some start-up costs you won’t have in future years,” Norwood said.
Austin’s Trail of Lights — a tradition since the 1960s — returned this year, funded by private donations after taking a two-year hiatus when the city cut off funding for the trail in 2010, citing tough economic times. The total cost of Austin’s free walking trail, organizers say, is expected to be $1.2 million. Much of that cash had already been raised by last week.
Round Rock Parks and Recreation Department spokesman Roger Heaney said Round Rock expects attendance at its lights tour to pick up after schools let out for the holidays and Christmas nears.
“It’s very, very popular,” Heaney said. “We’re telling everybody now, if you can come on the weekday nights, do that.”
Carlos and Jennifer Ribas, who brought their 11-year-old son Andrew and two-year-old son Austin’s reborn Trail of Lights, inundated on its first night, is adding extra shuttle buses in hopes of easing a huge traffic backup on MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1) created by the event Sunday. The nonprofit group that resurrected the Zilker Park holiday display had expected up to 20,000 visitors Sunday; about 65,000 showed up. So organizers, who had 30 buses ferrying trail-goers between three shuttle stops and the event, increased that to 39 for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and will bring in a total of 50 for Thursday through Sunday, the last night. The buses run from Barton Creek Square Mall, Republic Square downtown, and the Krieg Field softball complex on South Pleasant Valley Road. The shuttles, which cost $2 for everyone 5 years old and older, run between 5:30-10:30 p.m. Organizers emphasized that the trail event, which is free, closes promptly at 10 p.m. each night. So anyone wishing to walk the entire 1.25 miles and see all 36 displays, organizers said, should be on-site by no later than 9 p.m. Connor on the lights tour Thursday, said they tried to drive the tour the previous weekend and the line to get into the park stretched all the way down Old Settlers Boulevard to A.W. Grimes Boulevard. The line to get into the tour Thursday was only a few cars long and took about five minutes to get through.
The Ribases said they enjoyed the tour, especially the light tunnel at the end where thousands of mutlicolored lights blink off and on.
“It kind of looked like you were going through a portal,” Andrew Ribas said.
Heaney described the effect as “the feeling of hyperspace.”
This year, the tour kicks off with a local display, featuring lighted Round Rock Express players tossing a ball and an homage to Round Rock Donuts. The tour then travels through a section with a Nativity scene on one side of the street and a menorah on the other, the 12 days of Christmas, a Texas stretch that gives way to an American portion featuring a lighted Benjamin Franklin flying a kite and the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima.
“We plan on making the show bigger and better every year,” Heaney said.
The 20-minute driving tour is open Sunday through Thursday from 6 to 9 p.m. and Friday, Saturday and holidays from 6 to 10 p.m. The tour is open through Dec. 31.