xmas in April
Trail of Lights plugged back in thanks to a public-private arrangement
Zilker Park has been dark the past two Christmas holidays, but it will glow again this year with the return of the Trail of Lights.
That is thanks to the city's public-private arrangement with Paul Carrozza, the owner of the RunTex stores who will spearhead most of the fundraising effort to bring back an Austin tradition that's nearly a half-century old.
"This is the one event where all of Austin gets together, and we're going to keep it free for the citizens and free for the taxpayers of Austin," Carrozza said Tuesday after the deal with the city was finalized.
Originally called the Yule Fest, the event began in 1965 as a gift from the Parks and Recreation Department. It grew and grew, becoming the Trail of Lights in 1992.
But as it grew, so did the cost. It finally reached upward of $1 million a year.
But the two-year absence has left a void.
"It's something we've missed here in Austin the last couple of years because of the economic downturn and we needed that budget money for other things," said Mayor Lee Leffingwell. "Now we've found a way to bring it back as good or better than it ever was."
Carrozza's fundraising target this year is $700,000.
"I think you'll see the grandeur of 2007 and 2008, with full displays and millions of lights," Carrozza said. "We've had an overwhelming response from individuals who want to volunteer, because they grew up with the Trail of Lights and they want to see it continue."