Lights On

An Austin tradition revisited: The Trail of Lights returns to Zilker Park after a two year hiatus

An Austin tradition revisited: The Trail of Lights returns to Zilker Park after a two year hiatus

Austin Photo Set: News_aleks_trail of lights_dec 2012_1
Trail of Lights Courtesy of Trail of Lights
Austin Photo Set: News_aleks_trail of lights_dec 2012_2
Courtesy of Trail of Lights
Austin Photo Set: News_aleks_trail of lights_dec 2012_4
Courtesy of Trail of Lights
Austin Photo Set: News_aleks_trail of lights_dec 2012_3
Courtesy of Trail of Lights
Austin Photo Set: News_aleks_trail of lights_dec 2012_5
Courtesy of Trail of Lights
Austin Photo Set: News_aleks_trail of lights_dec 2012_1
Austin Photo Set: News_aleks_trail of lights_dec 2012_2
Austin Photo Set: News_aleks_trail of lights_dec 2012_4
Austin Photo Set: News_aleks_trail of lights_dec 2012_3
Austin Photo Set: News_aleks_trail of lights_dec 2012_5

After two years of being stuck in funding and economic limbo, Austin's beloved Trail of Lights has reemerged with the help of a special relationship forged between RunTex owner Paul Carrozza, the city and a bevy of corporate and nonprofit co-sponsors. The hundreds of lights will shine and blink again in Zilker Park starting Sunday, December 16.

 “The goal this year was to bring it back to its glory,” Honning said. “With the full mile-and-a-quarter long [entryway], all the displays refurbished, and kick it up a notch.” 

Fundraising, event director John Honning said, puts Trail of Lights on track to be in Austin for five years, thanks in large part to some long term partnerships and commitments for multi-year contributions, including those from sponsor HEB. Altogether, Hanning estimates, the event costs about $1 to $1.2 million and he expects to not only break even, but also turn a profit.

But beyond this year’s lights festival serving as a rebranding, it’s also the first steps of a revamping.

“The goal this year was to bring it back to its glory,” Honning said. “With the full mile-and-a-quarter long [entryway], all the displays refurbished, and kick it up a notch.”

Honning and his team have rolled out 250,000 lights, having started wrapping trees in the park the week after this year’s Austin City Limits Music Festival. Many of the lights and large displays from previous years were reused, but Honning says the transition to greener, and much more cost effective, lighting schemes are underway. LED and quartz lights, Honning says, use about 1/16 of the power of incandescent bulbs, the kind found on a lot of traditional Christmas lights.

There will be more of everything, from lights, to music and stops along the trail. And finally, a whole fleet of new food options. Hanning says 24 local food trailers will be parked and serving food and drink. “There used to be only turkey legs and funnel cakes,” Honning said. “It’s more of a destination now.”  

Going forward, Hanning hopes that Trail of Lights will be able to expand under its new multi-sponsored financing.

“The goal this year was to get 30 solid sponsors for the event,” Honning said. “Next year we’re going for 50; the following year we’re going for 100.”

But it’s mostly about keeping the tradition alive, to keep it the “gift to the city” Honning says it was originally created as. The Trail of Lights is open every evening from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m through December 23.