The Trail of Lights Foundation announced on Friday that it will implement a fee for the 2014 Trail of Lights, December 7-21.
The new fee will be $3 for individuals 12 and older and will be charged on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. The majority of the nights during Trail of Lights will still be free, including the grand opening on Sunday, December 7, thanks to funding from local sponsors.
"The Trail of Lights saw a large increase in attendance last year, welcoming more than 400,000 people in 2013," said Executive Director James Russell. "By implementing a weekend gate fee on the most highly attended nights, we expect to better disperse the crowds to ensure everyone is able to experience and enjoy the Trail of Lights in a comfortable and safe way."
The gate fee was proposed by Mayor Lee Leffingwell earlier this month to help cover the cost of additional security, clean-up efforts and staffing on the weekends. Austin City Council approved a change to the Trail of Lights Foundation’s contract with the city, allowing the foundation to implement a fee.
The fee marks a significant change to an event that has been free to the public for 50 years. However, it will help ensure that the Trail of Lights never goes dark again due to a lack of funding. The foundation also says that funds can help to add more activities and displays for holiday revelers to enjoy.
The Trail of Lights Foundation will vote each year about implementing the fee.