The Zilker Tree goes up for the holidays


by Quita Culpepper and photojournalist John Gusky / KVUE News

Posted on November 2, 2012 at 7:00 PM

Updated Friday, Nov 2 at 7:01 PM

 AUSTIN -- A holiday tradition is taking over an Austin park for the 46th consecutive year.

Under the warm November sun, a rising star signals the beginning of the holiday season in Austin.

Friday morning crews from Austin Energy spent hours putting up the much-loved Zilker Tree.

It takes time for Austin Energy workers to check each of the 3,159 brightly colored bulbs. The long strands turn the historic moontower into an Austin tradition.  

“They start stringing out the streamers away from the tower all the way around the tower, kind of like wagon wheel spokes," said Charles Posey, Electrical Maintenance Supervisor for Austin Energy.

And if any of the red, blue, green, or yellow lights are burned out, they're quickly replaced.

“By putting the yellow bulb on every 10th bulb, it makes that distinctive swirl that everybody is familiar with, and that swirl can be seen for miles,” said Austin Energy’s Carlos Cordova.

About two dozen Austin Energy linemen help put the tree together.  Most of them stay on the ground, and a lucky few work high above. The Zilker Tree is a towering 155 feet high.

These days workers have a crane to get them that high. In the old days, they had to climb all the way to the top of the tower.

Why is the Zilker Tree going up so early? Austin Energy says it's the one chance they have to get everything in place.

“We have to reserve these huge bucket trucks that can go up 175 feet into the skies,” Cordova said.  “Normally they're out somewhere in South Texas working on transmission lines. So we have to schedule them way in advance.”

Soon the tree will have company in Zilker Park as another Austin tradition comes back to life.

“What's really special about this year is the Trail of Lights returns after a 2 year absence,” Cordova said. “The Zilker Tree will once again be the center piece of the whole display.”

 The Zilker Tree lighting is December 2nd at 6 o'clock. KVUE’S Quita Culpepper will be the Mistress of Ceremonies for the event.