Mayor Lee Leffingwell Brings Back Trail of Lights

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Here's some good news: Mayor Lee Leffingwell has a proposal up for a vote this week at City Council that would restore the Trail of Lights holiday celebration in Zilker Park!

Leffingwell approached RunTex Foundation, the non-profit arm of the Austin-based running stores, to see if the group might be able to put on the annual display. Paul Carrozza, founder and owner of RunTex, has a strong relationship with  Leffingwell, as the entrepreneur chairs the Mayor's Fitness Council and has been heavily involved in many of the “Let's Move!” initiatives put together by the City.

Trail of Lights is expected to cost approximately $716,000. The City no longer foots the bill for the event given our current lean times — it's a valid decision on the part of Council when the budget is tight. Should Council approve the proposal from RunTex Foundation, Carrozza's non-profit would be responsible for raising the money and handling all logistics. Carrozza has pledged to make the event free for all, and return it to the 1.25-mile length that Austinites have enjoyed since the 1960's.

Last year, the City put out a request for proposals for an independent entity to produce the Trail of Lights. Contractors BrightBlue Marketing and Combo Platter were the sole bidders, and won the right to produce the event. However, they were unable to raise sufficient funds to put the event on, and it was cancelled. They pulled out of producing this year's event as well. Per Combo Platter's blog, they note their bid was OK'ed in August of 2011, leaving little time to actually raise the million dollars needed to execute their plans.

It's great to see Mayor Leffingwell find a way to bring back this Austin tradition despite a tight city budget. The Mayor's press release is below the jump.

In related news, the Mayor's re-election campaign is holding a headquarters opening tonight, complete with an Alamo Drafthouse Rolling Roadshow presentation of “Ferris Bueller's Day Off.” The event starts at 6:00 p.m. and all details are here.  

MAYOR LEE LEFFINGWELL ANNOUNCES

RETURN OF TRAIL OF LIGHTS

AUSTIN – Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Paul Carrozza of the RunTex Foundation (RTF) announced today their intention to bring back Austin's Trail of Lights Festival in its traditional form, but with some fun enhancements, including a 5K run.

“The Trail of Lights is an Austin tradition that we've been missing for the past few years and I am thrilled to be working with Paul Carrozza to bring it back for young and old Austinites alike to enjoy,” said Mayor Leffingwell. “We envision a partnership between the City, the RunTex Foundation and the community that will be sustainable for years to come.”

The proposal, which is slated for approval by the Austin City Council next Thursday March 1, would offer an 8-night, family-friendly lighted trail, live entertainment and more at no cost to the citizens of Austin. The RunTex Foundation would take the lead on launching a major fundraising campaign to produce all aspects of the event, at an estimated cost of just over $700,000.

“We are very excited to work with the Mayor's office and the City of Austin to bring back the Trail of Lights,” said Paul Carrozza. “We are confident that the Austin community will come together to raise the resources necessary to make this happen.”

RTF would raise funds to cover all direct costs to the City, including all staff and department time, and items such as event construction and barricades. They would recruit and manage temporary staff and volunteers, handle parking, litter control, security and more. The City would waive all event-related permits, park use and street closure fees, and provide the use of available event equipment and displays to RTF.

About Author

Katherine Haenschen

Katherine Haenschen is a PhD candidate at the University of Texas, where she studies political participation on digital media. She has previously managed successful candidate, issue, voter registration, and GOTV campaigns in Austin. In addition to serving as the president of Austin Young Democrats, she is also UCONN's #1 fan in Texas.

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