Con­sider week­night to avoid long lines

Lights

Austin American-Statesman - - COMMUNITY NEWS - Con­tin­ued from B SHUT­TLES ADDED FOR TRAIL OF LIGHTS Con­tact Ben­jamin Wermund at 246-1150. Twit­ter: @Ben­jam­inew

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.

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