Crews begin dismantling, storing Trail of Lights for next year


AUSTIN (KXAN) — After the Trail of Lights dimmed for the final time in 2017,  crews are in the process of tearing down and storing the displays that made it all possible.  The event, which draws in around 400,000 visitors each year has become one of the largest in Austin.

“This is like a military operation. It is about as efficient as you can possibly get,” said James Russell, the executive director of the Trail of Lights Foundation.

The Trail of Lights has existed in Austin since 1965, it features over 2 million lights and 40 displays.

A spokesperson for the Trail of Lights Foundation explained that crews began arriving Sunday morning to tear the display down, working for hours into the afternoon.

This year the Trail of Lights opened on Dec. 9 but closed for four days because of rain and muddy conditions at Zilker Park. Russell explained that when the ground has too much moisture holding the event or moving the displays around can actually damage the park.  The Trail of Lights Foundation closed the annual event in accordance with park policy, their team has been handling many transfer and refund requests as a result.

Russell said that crews had to clean up 8,000 gallons of water from the park already, and the park has still not completely dried out. Consequently, many of the displays installed in the lawn of the park cannot be removed yet. Currently, the Trail of Lights Foundation plans to turn the park back over to the public on Jan. 8. Russell acknowledge that any weather events could delay that timeline.

“It’s always a big bummer when you have to shut down even one night, because that could be ten thousand folks, 20,000 folks that it was their only night to come to the trail, and we had four of those this year, so it’s a bit of hard pill for me to swallow knowing that some folks were displaced from the trail of lights this year, and that’s pretty rough,” Russell said.

The Trail of Lights Foundation will work with Austin’s Parks Department to determine what repairs need to be made on the grass, the parks department does most of the work to the park while the foundation pays for the maintenance and time.

Ticket holders from canceled nights on Dec. 16, 17, 19 and 22 who could not exchange tickets and have requested a refund will be able to get a refund of their net ticket purchase – meaning the Trail of Lights will not be refunding fees (for every $3 ticket sold, a $0.84 fee was attached).

The Trail of Lights Foundation says the refunds will be processed in January and it may take up to 30 days for the transaction to appear on your account.

The foundation says ticket holders have two options: Do nothing and the ticket will remain a donation to the Trail of Lights, or submit a refund request by Dec. 31 by emailing with the name and email address of the person who made the request.

If you have already requested a refund, it’s not necessary to do so again.

Last year the festival drew in 375,000 attendees, Russell said they have yet to tally up the total number of attendees for this year.

All of the revenue made at the Trails of Lights goes back into paying for the event for next year, Russell said.

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