Austin radio host helps light Zilker tree 40 years later - | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Austin radio host helps light Zilker tree 40 years later

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The Zilker Park tree lighting has been kicking off the Christmas season for 47 years!

Laura and Benito Hipolito have been bringing their family for years.

A popular thing to do is spin around underneath while looking up at the spiral of lights.

"There used to be less people so you used to be able to spin a lot faster," Benito said.

The tree is actually an old converted moon tower with over 3300 lights and standing at 150 feet tall.

Austin Parks and Rec invited kids from 5 to 10 years old to draw a picture of the tree.

The winners flip the switch with the mayor.

Mayor Lee Leffingwell says that's the way it's been for 47 years...except for 1973.

"During the energy crunch, energy crisis, oil shortage and all that...they didn't light up the tree but tonight...we're gonna make up for that," Leffingwell said.

And they're making it up to Jon Madani.  He's a sports talk show host on AM 1300 "The Zone" here in Austin.

He won the contest when he was in third grade but thanks to the energy crisis, the tree stayed dark.

"I thought it was a big deal.  I got a blue ribbon, that was a big deal.  I got my picture in the paper, I thought that was cool.  Lighting the tree, I really didn't know what I was missing but year after year after year you drive up and down MoPac and you see it lit.  It's a reminder...'ahh I never got to light that tree.'  So 40 years later, I'm happy to be here," Madani said.

This year he was given the special honor of being a part of the that means more to him as an adult.

"I don't think I could have appreciated it at the age of 7 nearly as much as I will tonight at the age of 47 when I've got my wife here, you know, family's here.  I think it's a much bigger deal for me tonight,' Madani said.

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