AUSTIN, Texas - All 155 feet and 3,300 lights of Austin’s famed Zilker Tree were illuminated Sunday evening.
The tree lighting ceremony has been an annual tradition in Austin for 54 years. This year was the first the tradition was carried out virtually due to COVID-19.
“It is a little different this year as all things have been. But, what was important to the Parks Department and the City was lighting the tree and having the ceremony so that we can stay connected,” said Jason Maurer, event manager for the Austin Parks and Recreation Department.
There was no crowd surrounding the tree when it was lit Sunday night. Parking lots and spaces near the tree were closed to the public. There were no live performances and no live speeches.
The City produced an approximately 25-minute long video of the ceremony with pre-recorded speeches from members of the Parks and Recreation Department, Austin Energy, and City government.
Performances were also pre-taped, with performers separate in the video collaborating virtually. The video featured performances from the Civic Wind Ensemble and Barton Hills Choir.
“Together, that’s what this event highlights. How Austinites power through challenges and obstacles and come together stronger than ever,” said Austin Energy General Manager Jackie Sargent.
At the end of the video, young Austinites symbolically flipped a switch to “light the tree.” The children won an art contest securing the privilege.
A press release issued by the Parks and Recreation Department states there will be no on-site access to the tree this year. A perimeter has been installed to prevent people from gathering around, or near it.
Austinites will still be able to spin under the tree this year but will have to do so virtually. Click here for a virtual tree spinning video.