This festive episode of Discover Austin is all about decorating the cedar trees along Loop 360. There’s still plenty of time to decorate your own cedar tree so get out there to spread some Christmas cheer (of course, singing loud for all to hear is the best way to spread Christmas cheer, but 360 trees has to be close second). If you’d prefer to read about decorating the cedar trees, the transcript can be found below the video.
Greetings, I’m Craig Smyser. I’m standing along the side of Loop 360 in northwest Austin to take part in the annual tradition of decorating the cedar trees on this episode of Discover Austin.
The tradition of decorating the cedar trees along 360 is one of those things that helps to Keep Austin Weird. No on knows who actually started it, but the tradition began in the late 1990s. I imagine that a few Austinites decided to brighten this stretch of road for Christmastime so they hung decorations and it took off from there. Let me share with you the general way this works as there is no sponsoring organization, there are no enforceable rules, and no official website to consult if you have any questions. Though there are always a few calendar-challenged people who put up decorations before Thanksgiving, things really start in full swing after you’ve had time to digest your turkey. Gather up your family or friends and head out to 360. While this was originally done only on the stretch between 2222 and 183, nowadays you’ll find decorations all along the whole stretch of road. You’ll need to find a safe place to park, but keep in mind there are no public lots along 360. Then you just look until you find an undecorated cedar tree that appeals to you. By the way, these “cedar trees” which are found throughout Central Texas aren’t really cedar trees, they’re Ashe Junipers. But that’s a story we’ll have to save for another episode. Anyway, now you just decorate the tree, but not like you do the tree in your family room. You need to be prepared to decorate in a way that will stand up to the wind and rain for a few weeks so be sure to really secure the decorations to the tree, maybe with string or twist ties. Many people like to theme their trees, though it certainly isn’t required. A tree with regular-sized Christmas decorations looks just fine from a distance, but if you are doing something special, make sure they are big enough to see from the highway. Perhaps the biggest thing to remember is to come back to your tree after Christmas and remove your decorations. Don’t be one of those people who leaves their tree to become an eye sore. Of course, you can always pay someone to do it for you, as this young entrepreneur has seen a good business opportunity
Of course, not everyone is a fan of decorating the trees. 360 is a state road so I called the Texas Department of Transportation to ask them about it. TxDot highly discourages the decorating. Of course, they realize people are still going to do it and have resolved that they have better things to do than police this activity. When I asked if it was actually illegal, I was told the decorating itself is not. However, it is illegal to park on 360 except in an emergency. Further, if a decoration falls off the tree, then it becomes littering, which, of course, is also illegal.
Over the years decorating trees has spread to other roads in Central Texas. While no other area is quite as popular as 360, don’t be surprised when you see a few trees brightening up other roads around town.
This December gather up your family and friends and head on out to 360 so you can enjoy the quirky tradition of decorating a cedar tree. I’m Craig Smyser, thanks for joining me for this episode of Discover Austin.