Trail of Lights

One of the most iconic, and highly anticipated, holiday events in Austin is the Trail of Lights held at Zilker Park each year. From a small gathering known as Yule Fest in the 1960s, this fairytale winter wonderland has grown through 50-plus years to become a community-wide celebration of the unique spirit of Austin.

"One of the things that is magical about this event is that it is community driven," says Austin Mayor Steve Adler.

From the two million lights that illuminate 50-plus displays, to the 155-foot-tall Zilker Christmas tree, indeed the Trail of Lights is a tradition that is embraced and beloved by the Austin community. Nowhere is this more evident than in the collaboration between the Trail of Lights Foundation and Austin Community Foundation, in a partnership that is vital to making this yuletide experience happen.

“Trail of Lights is a community event that contributes to the vibrancy of our city. Our partnership focuses on keeping that vibrancy alive.” says Jonathan Barona, Special Project Manager of Donor Relations at ACF.

As the fiscal partner for the Trail of Lights, the ACF role is to provide the 501c3 umbrella to the event, and handle a significant portion of the back-office work, such as collecting the tax-deductible donations and ensuring that those funds are well managed.

“This allows Trail of Lights to focus on what they do best — putting on a whimsical event for the Austin community,” Barona says.  ACF is committed to ensuring that Trail of Lights will be around for many years to come.”

From the Trail of Lights Foundation perspective, the partnership with ACF is indispensable, says the foundation’s Executive Director James Russell. “The services that ACF provides enables us to keep our overhead as low as possible to make sure the Trail of Lights remains financially viable and accessible to all of Austin.”

—Shelley Seale