Still pending a special events permit from the city of Austin, Austinites are buzzing with excitement and less than worried that Austin City Limits Festival 2021 won't return.
With only three more weekends until the iconic music festival, headlines have circulated speculating a cancelation for the festival, especially after Pecan Street Festival and Bat Fest were denied their permit. Every year ACL is required to obtain a special events permit since it operates on city grounds.
This year's events application—with more than 2,500 outdoor attendees—requires that event organizers take precautions against COVID-19 and submit a safety plan beforehand. The precautions include acquiring a negative test from all attendees, regardless of vaccination—a rule ACL has yet to update in its own policy. ACL's health policy still reads that those who are fully vaccinated may show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination instead of proof of negative test.
However, ACL began setting up in Zilker park this week and shipping out wristbands.
Rio Grande Valley native and five-year Austin resident Maggie Palacios struggled to get her weekend one ticket but she said seeing crews setting up has made her confident that the show will go on.
Palacios' first concert was Vance Joy at ACL 2017, so she has a soft spot for both the park and the festival.
"I was definitely in that queue, trying to get a ticket for a while. It was really stressful and I was really excited once I got it," Palacios said. "It's definitely comforting to see something normal like ACL go on. It's also just really exciting to be able to experience something again."
According to Austin Center for Events Public Information and Marketing Program Manager Sara Henry, ACL didn't get approved for its permit until Sept. 26 in 2019. The office hasn't made a concrete decision yet so speculation may be fueled by suspense.
"It is not unusual for special events permits to be approved a few days before an event begins," Henry told Austonia. "As always, Austin Center for Events, which includes Austin Public Health, are working closely with event organizers to help them navigate the evolving requirements for COVID-19 health and safety during events."
After a hard year-and-a-half on the food service industry, ACL businesses are betting their chips that they'll be able to serve the crowd this year.
The JuiceLand booth has been an ACL staple for the past consecutive nine years—this year they are upgrading to two separate booths and bringing back the blue raspberry lemonade. (JuiceLand)
With not one but two JuiceLand booths coming to ACL this year, CEO and 20-year ACL attendee Matt Shook said he and his team have been waiting for the festival with bated breath after more than a year of playing it safe.
"There are a lot more JuiceLanders hoping that the festival happens this year than ever before," Shook told Austonia. "We see a lot of old friends and old fans of the brand that come to Austin maybe once a year just for ACL, so it's sort of a homecoming. It's a really good time and everybody looks forward to it."
JuiceLand will have double the staff at the festival this year. (JuiceLand)
APH officials said on Friday morning that for the time being, they are working with organizers to make sure the festival can go on safely. However, APH Interim Health Director Adrienne Stirrup said circumstances could change at the drop of a hat.
"You can go to bed on a Friday night thinking that we're on this smooth trajectory to Stage 4 and wake up on a Monday to find out that something happened over the weekend, and those projections say that it's going to take us a little bit longer," Stirrup said.
No matter what happens, Shook said he and his JuiceLand family will try to see the silver lining while looking forward to ACL 2022.
"If Zilker Park is open for people to play in it for a month more than usual, which would be the case, that's a pretty good thing," Shook said. "You got to be more safe than you are sorry. So, if the powers that be decide that the festival is canceled, we'll just roll with the punches and make lemonade out of lemons."
You know what they say, good things come to those who wait.
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Austin's Delta 8 industry has been turned on its head after Texas health officials clarified that the cannabinoid is on the state list of illegal substances, though it was previously believed to be legal by most retailers, consumers and manufacturers.
House Bill 1325, which was signed in June 2019 by Gov. Greg Abbott, and the Farm Bill, signed into law by former President Donald Trump in 2018, legalized any hemp product containing less than .3% THC. The same bills were thought to have made Delta 8 legal, though the Texas Department of State Health Services added a notice on its website saying it was still a controlled substance as of Friday, Oct. 15.
Both the federal and state governments keep separate lists on what is considered a controlled substance. Marijuana is considered Schedule I, a category reserved for substances with "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse," both statewide and federally.
Austin-based CBD retailer Grassroots Harvest CEO Kemal Whyte, like many CBD shop retailers, was blindsided by the announcement. Many small businesses rely on Delta 8 for their sales—Green Herbal Care CBD said about 90% of its sales come from Delta 8—and Whyte said he is frustrated by the inconsistencies in the drug scheduling system.
Since 87% of Texans support the legalization of marijuana, at least for medical use, per a recent poll, Whyte said he wonders who this legislation is for.
"It's gonna have a massive impact on small businesses—there's just no way around it," Whyte said. "The reality is, we don't want to push out anything bad for our customers, we want this to benefit our customers and to help them. If we can make money while doing it, that's the American dream. What are we doing, whose benefit is this for?"
Delta 8 surged in popularity after the perceived legalization—consumers enjoyed its lower psychotropic potency, decreased anxiety while using it and the peace of mind as a legal way to get high. So in order to protect their products and livelihoods, both Grassroots Harvest and Austin-based manufacturer Hometown Heroes are taking legal action.
Whyte said Grassroots Harvest is suing DSHS, saying their action is creating negative effects in the market. Meanwhile, a Hometown Heroes spokesperson said the company is in the process of filing a temporary restraining order that would pause the ban on Delta-8 in the state of Texas.
Threats against Delta 8 are not new—DSHS lost a lawsuit trying to make "smokable hemp products" illegal last year and Texas lawmakers had been considering a bill that would make Delta 8 illegal, though it was dropped after the clarification was made.
Hometown Heroes released a formal statement in response to the DSHS rule.
"I need to be clear—we love Texas, we're just choosing to fight for the will of the people in regards to cannabis in Texas," Hometown Hero CEO Lukas Gilkey said in a statement. "(Texas DSHS) are using backhanded ways to create legislation and go against the will of the people."
Whyte laments the fact that it would be easier legally to "open up a strip club that also sells guns," and said he can't post customer testimonials that mention the benefits of Delta 8 without getting hit with a cease and desist from the Food and Drug Administration. Whyte said he isn't opposed to regulation—far from it—he just wants to see it go through the correct channels.
"The fact that they're stunting our ability to communicate with our clients that want to learn about this, you're preventing us from communicating with them and teaching them, or spreading information that we know," Whyte said. "I think that that in and of itself opens up a lot of questions."
Grassroots Harvest still has Delta 8 products on its shelves for the time being but for how long, Whyte doesn't know.
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Austin Public Health and other clinics around Austin are now providing booster shots for all three vaccines, including Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, to fully vaccinated individuals after both Pfizer and J & J were approved by the CDC on Wednesday.
APH and Austin clinics, which were already administering the approved Pfizer booster, will begin distributing shots as soon as Friday.
Those who received the second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine more than six months ago are elligble to receive a booster if they are over 65 or if they are over 18 and:
- Live in a long-term care environment
- Have underlying medical conditions
- Work or live in high-risk settings, such as schools, hospitals or correctional facilities
Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said in a media Q&A Friday that APH is encouraging boosters just as much as they have urged residents to get their first and second doses.
"Boosters are incredibly important to keeping our community protected and hospitalizations low," Walkes said. "If we can stay on top of our vaccinations, we provide protections for our most vulnerable and make it that much harder for COVID to spread in our community."
Eligible residents are free to choose the same booster as their first doses or "mix and match," per the CDC announcement.
Those looking for another dose can simply bring their vaccination card to APH centers or the dozens of Walgreens and CVS locations in the metro, which began administering doses Friday.
Additional updated guidance from the CDC allows for all eligible individuals to choose which vaccine they receive as a "mix-and-match" booster dose. It is advised to remember to bring your CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Card showing the original doses with you when going for booster shots.
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