Austin’s Zilker Holiday Tree was lit for the 51st year during the annual ceremony at Zilker Metropolitan Park. Prior to the event, the Austin Parks & Recreation Department sponsored its annual art contest to determine the young students who would help light the Zilker Tree. Of the six winners this year, two students are from District 6: 7-year-old Haebin Kim and 6-year-old Emily Kim.
The tree is a moonlight tower that stands 155 feet tall, and is decorated with 39 streamers – each strung with 81 multicolored light bulbs. The tree is topped with a double star that measures 10 feet, which displays 150 frosted light bulbs. A total of 3,309 lights arranged in this spiral pattern and the light from the star make the Zilker Tree sparkle.
The winners were selected from a pool of 350 entries by young Austin-area artists. The winners were separated into two divisions: the youth (participants aged five to seven) and senior (participants aged eight to 10). Three winners were chosen from each category.
The winners of the children’s art contest helped light the tree at 6:50pm at the ceremony on Nov. 26. The event featured live music, food, and the proud-standing Zilker Tree. The tree will be on display nightly until Dec. 31, 2017 from 6pm to midnight. Austin’s Trail of Lights will run in conjunction with the Zilker Tree from Dec. 9 to Dec. 23.
STUDENT SPOTLIGHT: Haebin Kim, Age 7, Junior Division: 2nd Place
Haebin is a 2nd grade student who lives in District 6. She loves art because she feels that each work is special.
She created her painting with watercolor and used many colors because she loves colorful things. She was excited to see the tree from up close for the first time, and said it was very beautiful.
In her painting, people are watching the tree being lit up. Kim spent a lot of time on the sky, using blue and purple watercolor and mixing it with a lot of water.
“The sky is really special,” Kim said. “I drew the moon bigger so the sky would be brighter, for the tree to be more visible.”
She played with the element of light, coloring the grass under the tree lighter, and the grass around it darker. She said she used this technique for the viewers’ focus to be on the tree.
Kim said she was not expecting to win the contest, and was surprised when her mother told her that she had won 2nd place. Her parents and her grandparents congratulated her on the good news.
“I was so happy and excited – I was dancing and everything!” Kim said. “It was so hard to wait for the ceremony day. On Sunday morning, I dressed up in new shoes and I looked so happy.”
At the ceremony, the family sat in a reserved area for the winners and their families. Kim said she was thankful for the chairs and was glad they were able to see the tree from up close. She remembers seeing a lot of people gathered to see the Zilker Tree.
“I saw so many colors of lights,” Kim said. “It was so cool.”
Haebin Kim said the night was very special for her and hopes to participate again next year.
“It was the happiest moment I ever had,” Kim said. “I was so happy to be able to go with my whole family and share this happy moment together.”
At their home, the Kims have the painting proudly on display atop a stand.
“I am so happy we can look at my painting and remember this moment forever.”
STUDENT SPOTLIGHT: Emily Kim, Age 6, Junior Division: 3nd Place
Emily is a 6-year-old student living in District 6. She hopes to be a chef, babysitter and artist when she grows older. She spent every winter at Zilker Park with her family to see the holiday tree, starting from when she was two years old.
“My daddy always took pictures there,” Kim said. “I went with him – he always takes pictures whenever we go. So I had seen the tree before.”
Her artwork made use of multiple mediums. She first drew with a pencil, and colored in her drawing with oil pastel. She used pens on the tree lights, painted the background and outlined the elements with Sharpie. The scene featured her father taking a photograph of the family by the Zilker Tree. Her father was also the one who told Kim she placed in the art contest.
“My daddy found out first,” Kim said. “I think he was so proud of me, because he’s always proud.”
When asked about the ceremony and lighting the tree, Kim recounted the event as an exciting one – especially during the tree lighting process.
“The tree was dark! I thought the lights would be up first, but they weren’t,” Kim said. “It was dark and then all of a sudden it became shiny.”
Emily Kim hopes to participate again in another year.
“I don’t know if I am going to do this again next year, because it will be another contest, and I’d have to do just as good as this time,” Kim said. “I think I can do it though. I would love to do it again.”
Photo credits: Zilker Tree photo: Christopher Schmitt, flickr Creative Commons; Student art photos: austintexas.gov; Student photos used with permission from family