The Austin Trail of Lights will return to Zilker Park this December after a two-year absence, the city and event organizers announced Sept. 20.
“It's a tradition,” said Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell. “It's a Christmas spirit thing. It's a family event, and it was very important to us that we make it a free family event. That's what we've done this year.”
The Trail of Lights kicks off Dec. 16, incorporating all of Zilker Park, located at 2100 Barton Springs Road, and runs until Dec. 23. Events include performances by dancers, singers musicians and carolers as well as themed evenings including military appreciation night, heritage night and school spirit night. The Trail of Lights 5K will also return Dec. 15.
“We're excited, one, to be part of [the trail of lights], but two, to be able to come back to the public and tell them the lights are coming back on,” said Jay Watson, CEO of Forefront Austin, a digital media and marketing company helping sponsor the event.
The tradition first started in 1965 under the name Yule Fest. In 1992, the name changed to Trail of Lights, but budget constraints two years ago caused the city to discontinue the event.
“This is a nice-to-have item, but when you start to prioritize things, there are so many other things that have greater priority, such as public safety and maintaining our roads and parks,” Leffingwell said. “But we also realized it's a tradition that needed to be preserved in some way. It's taken a little bit of time. We missed two years, but now we're on track to bring it back, bigger and better than ever.”
The cost of the event is estimated to be between $1 million to $1.2 million and is being funded through corporate sponsors. The event is sponsored by H-E-B, among others, and organized by the City of Austin, Forefront Austin and the RunTex Carrozza Foundation, a foundation focused on promoting childrens' fitness.
“It's very important to us that we get into this and there's an element of sustainability,” Watson said. “Entering this year is the first of what we hope to be a long, long, long continued history of this great event.”
For more information, visit www.austintrailoflights.org.