For the third year in a row, Austin's Trail of Lights won't happen this holiday season.
Organizers had set a fundraising milestone of $250,000 by today in order to reach the $1 million necessary to host what used to be an annual Austin tradition: a mile long trail through Zilker Park, surrounded with holiday light displays. But they didn’t meet that goal.
“It’s just deeply, deeply disappointing that we weren’t able to raise the revenue that we needed ahead of time,” said Amy Vercruysse with BrightBlue Marketing, the company that had been contracted by the city to organize the event.
Vercruysse says organizers reached out to “literally thousands” of local businesses, and many said they simply didn’t have the funds this year to contribute to the Trail of Lights.
The group raised $78,000, but needed at least $250,000 to move forward after today. They were also expecting to raise about $500,000 in ticket sales.
BrightBlue Marketing started raising money for the event in August. Vercruysse says they hope to raise enough for the Trail of Lights in 2012, because they'll have more time to solicit donations. People and businesses who contributed to this year's event can get a refund, or they can roll their donation into the 2012 fundraising effort.
But all is not lost. A free event called Austin HolidayFest is planned for December 4 to 11. It will kick off with the lighting of the Zilker Tree and will include a Santa’s House and assorted food and novelty vendors.
The Trail of Lights was first scaled back in 2009, the same year that Austin’s Parks and Recreation was asked to trim $1.4 million from its budget. It was canceled altogether last year. The event cost Parks and Rec $1,037,644 in 2008, making it among the most expensive city holiday event in the country, according to an Austin Chronicle story from 2009.