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Austin City Limits

A year ago this week, Austin resident Michelle Lambreton discovered that Cardi B was playing the Honda stage at Austin City Limits Festival 2019, and excitedly bought her tickets.

It's her favorite Austin event, and she's been going almost every year since it started in 2002.

"I would still be hearing music in my head for days after," Lambreton, 38, said.


This year, Lambreton hears nothing but radio silence about the festival, which was expected to bring close to half a million fans to Zilker Park over the first two three-day weekends in October—before the coronavirus pandemic turned such gatherings into an infection risk.

ACL Fest 2020 has not been cancelled or changed, at this point, and no decisions have been made on whether it would be safe to move forward, one city official said.

"It's too early to tell at this point," said Jorge Ortega, senior public information specialist for the Austin Planning and Zoning Department.

But there is no announced lineup, no spring ticket sales, and no official word from organizers about where the festival stands right now.

A poll of Austonia readers shows that 83% of them believe it won't happen as planned.

"I don't think 'normal' is something that we will get back to by October," Lambreton said.

Calls to event organizers C3 and Live Nation, ACL representatives, Austin Public Health and members of the City Council were unreturned.

A ticket seller at Front Gate Tickets, the official vendor for ACL tickets, said Monday they had not been given a sale date. Typically, the lineup is announced and tickets go on sale in late April and early May.

Other signs suggest to would-be festivalgoers that they may be in for a vastly smaller, or even virtual, ACL this year.

Last week, Austin's top health official, Dr. Mark Escott, cautioned against events like football games and festivals.

"I can expect that at least for the next six months, and perhaps the next year, that events like that are going to be very, very difficult to have, unless we have substantial increases in testing and other strategies to further mitigate the threat of those kind of events," he said.

He did not mention ACL Fest specifically.

Mayor Steve Adler has said the cancellation of SXSW helped Austin prevent the spread, but he has not commented on ACL Fest 2020.

Logistical problems over festivals and tours that have already been shuffled could make it impossible to commit to a lineup, said local musician William Harries Graham.

One Austinite who organizes conventions in town said that by January, she was unable to secure pandemic insurance. It was unclear whether ACL has that coverage, but SXSW did not, organizers said.

There's also the question of hotel availability and sanitation. Some said they'll avoid large crowds for a while anyway.

"Do you really want to climb into a pit with 30,000 people that you don't know?" said Graham's father, recording artist Jon Dee Graham. "I don't think that putting Purell all over the place is going to take care of the problem."

It wouldn't be enough for Lambreton, who has autoimmune issues.

"I can only imagine a festival like that to be a perfect place for an outbreak," she said.

This story has been updated from the original with additional comments.

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