AUSTIN - A tradition Austin has upheld for 50 years took place Sunday night -- the lighting of 39 streamers on the Zilker Holiday Tree in Zilker Park. Once lit, people could see it from miles away from the park, easily getting the city in the holiday spirit.
The 155-foot tree is always lit on a moonlight tower, as Austin is the only city left in the world that still has the type of structure.
Robert Cullick, the director of communications for Austin energy, said it is fair to say things have changed a little bit since the tree was first lit on December 10, 1967.
"Fifty years is a really long time for anything in Austin," Cullick said. "Think about it. Austin doubles in size every 25 years. We have about a million people, so when we started doing this, we had fewer than 200,000 people in this town. It's different now."
The tree has a special "50" star at the top this year, to commemorate the 50th year of the ceremony. There is a total of 3,309 lights on the moonlight tower, filled with different colors.
But besides the bright lights, plenty of different groups brought musical entertainment Sunday night, including a choir and wind ensemble as well as plenty of food trucks.
Jason Maurer, the events manager for Austin Parks and Recreation, said Sunday's lighting is one of his favorite events to help put together.
"This is the best day in the park's system all year," Maurer said. "This is a great family-friendly event. It's really a great tradition to come out and spin under the tree. I love it."
Maurer also said his department helped refurbish the moon tower this year, specifically for the 50th anniversary.
"It has a fresh facelift," Maurer said. "It looks great."
Cullick said being a part of the Zilker tree lighting is something he hopes Austin Energy can be a part of for another 50 years.
"We bring something to each house every day - energy," Cullick said. "This is a time when people really see the result of that. They see the lights. They see the sparkle. They see the shine. It brings a festive notion to the holidays. That's why we're so excited about this."
A couple hundred people poured in around the tree Sunday night. This is also a good reminder that the Trail of Lights at Zilker Park is right around the corner. That will be back in about two weeks, starting Saturday, December 10. It will last until December 23.
The Zilker Tree is lit every day from 6:00 p.m. until midnight through the end of the year.
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