2019 NOEL Tower Photo by Woody Lauland

Mueller Ten Years Later:  Reflections on a Holiday Tradition

Dusty Harshman Article, Front Porch Flyer

In this series, Mueller Ten Years Later, we’ll take a look at our neighborhood’s early history and the ways we’ve evolved over our first ten years.

In the December 26, 2006 issue of the Austin Chronicle, urban historian Katherine Gregor described the upcoming transition of Mueller from an airport to a neighborhood. She commented about her drive down Manor Road: “The new Mueller neighborhood is brightened by the ‘NOEL’ display on the old airport’s traffic control tower. A favorite of decades past, the holiday lighting was brought back at the request of surrounding neighborhoods. In 2007, Mueller will become 3-D.”  

As I enjoyed the 2018 Tower Lighting ceremony, I was reminded of the NOEL lightings of the early years. The first lighting ceremony my family attended was in 2007 at the newly renovated Mueller Central during the construction of the first handful of homes in Mueller. We were to be among the first residents in the neighborhood, and we wanted to meet as many of our future neighbors as possible.  

While we did meet many eventual neighbors that evening, we were somewhat surprised to also meet folks from the surrounding Windsor Park, Cherrywood, Delwood 2, and JJ Seabrook neighborhoods. The near Mueller residents clearly outnumbered the future Mueller residents at the event.  I understood, with a faint notion, that the Mueller neighborhood was the invention of the neighborhoods that surrounded it, but this was my first taste of how deeply invested many of our fellow East Austinites were in the success of Mueller.  

Fast forward to 2018…It didn’t take long to have a revelation while walking around John Gaines Park during December’s NOEL lighting at the Mueller Control Tower. I remarked to my family that this was likely the most Muellerfolk gathered in one place in the neighborhood’s history. John Gaines was flooded with early holiday revelers that reflected the growth of our neighborhood. Among the 1,000 or so people in attendance, Mueller neighbors were everywhere…chatting up friends…waiting in line for hot cocoa…climbing on the playscape…posing for portraits. The weather was cool, but the Nash Hernandez Orchestra and the Reagan High drumline were hot enough to keep everyone warm.

In 2007, Mueller may have become “3-D”, but with the added fourth dimension of time, our neighborhood grows dynamically into a community.  This year, as Austin City Council member Jimmy Flannigan flipped the switch and the NOEL floated brightly in the distance of the tower, I had a passing thought about how the annual tower lighting brings us together to recognize how fortunate we are to share this community.