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As ACL set-up begins, Austinites feel confident the festival will obtain special events permit

ACL is still not approved for its special events permit but that may not be cause to lose hope. (Sydney Gawlik/ACL)

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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