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Buda’s trail of lights burns bright amid budget cuts

More than 20,000 lights covering the equivalent of five miles is the scene visitors to Buda’s Stagecoach Park can expect when the city’s 9th annual Trail of Lights event opens up next month.

Juan Mosqueda, a member of the Buda Parks and Recreation department, said the event started as a small, local holiday celebration that has grown to accommodate 12,000 to 15,000 people each year.

It takes one month for crews to set up for the seven-day event. Set up involved closing Stagecoach Park to drive through traffic on Nov. 1. Opening night is set  for Dec. 7, which is also Senior Night.

“I really want them to get credit because the Parks and Recreation department works really hard every year to do this,” David Marino, Buda public information officer said.

Mosqueda said the annual event has almost become a passion project for the parks department since its inception. When it began, the Parks and Recreation crews were only responsible for setting up and tearing down the nearly 3,000 feet of lights.

With nearly 7,000 linear feet of lights the event has grown to include not only the lit pathway to guide visitors through the trail, but interactive light displays that range from traditional Christmas Nativity scenes to “Star Wars” and “How to Train your Dragon.”

Mosqueda said crews are not only responsible for setup and tear down, but due to a shrinking budget, are also responsible for running the electrical equipment used to power the lights for the event.

“It’s finally something we can participate in so we are extra excited this year,” Mosqueda said.

Mosqueda said the lights are powered by crews running electrical cables from the displays and ground lights to electrical vaults in the nearby woods of the park, as well as spider boxes and generators placed in various locations.

Mosqueda said approximately three years ago the department’s budget for the annual event was around $40,000. After a budget crunch, funds were reduced to around $20,000.

As a result, parks and  recreation crews had to learn how to do everything themselves.

“This years budget is $28,000 and that includes the costs for equipment, overtime, amenities, instillation of the lights and cleaning and prepping the park,” Mosqueda said.

Another parks and recreation crewmember described how they got creative with a dragonfly display and used old ceiling fan blades and reclaimed chair legs to create the display piece.

“It’s amazing what you can do on a shoestring budget, people can get very creative,” Marino said.

A local Boy Scouts troop, which had previously provided a light display for the event, decided to participate this year and host the fire circle every night of the event.

“The fire circle was going to disappear this year because no one was available to man it but the Boy Scouts volunteered to do s’mores this year,” Mosqueda said.

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