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Austin City Council votes to make Trail of Lights 2020 a drive-thru event

City leaders say about 1,300 cars could be accommodated each night.

AUSTIN, Texas — The Austin City Council on Thursday voted to pass a city ordinance that will turn the annual Trail of Lights into a drive-thru event this year.

"The Trail of Lights Foundation and the City of Austin are thrilled to be moving forward with the 56th annual Austin Trail of Lights as a drive-thru experience," said James Russell, executive director of the foundation. "What is old is becoming new again and on behalf of the foundation, I would like to thank the city council and City staff members for their continued trust in allowing us to be the steward for this beloved Austin tradition. More details regarding schedule, pricing and programs will be available in mid-October.”

City leaders said that the timeline needed to plan a successful event that can accommodate a modified number of attendees in vehicles will require advanced approval for the maximum number of event nights possible.

"An unprecedented pandemic, COVID-19, has affected the globe and created enhanced safety requirements and significant planning which has affected live events world-wide," the ordinance states. "Planning for large events in any year requires significant dependable variables to allow for appropriate organization, promotion and publication of event details. A traditional in-person event is not possible, safe or in alignment with protecting the community’s health. For the 2020 event year, a drive-through event may be the only safe way for Austinites to enjoy holiday activities."

RELATED: Austin's Trail of Lights: How 'Yule Fest' 1965 became the holiday celebration we know today

Additionally, the Trail of Lights will obtain the approval of Austin Public Health, as well as comply with the City's special event permitting process.

According to the ordinance, about 1,300 cars per night can be safely accommodated in a drive-thru model. The model will allow Barton Springs Road, FM 2244 and MoPac access roads to remain open. 

It will also allow existing Trail of Lights Foundation's programs, like STARS Nights, to continue. The foundation will not assess an admission fee in 2020.

The popular wintertime event draws hundreds of thousands of people to Zilker Park every year.


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