Christmas is now eight days away, so if you're not feeling jolly yet, attending a holiday event might be the cure you need to rid any Grinch-like emotions.
Although 2020 has meant coming up with new traditions, beloved events around town are still happening in a safe and unique fashion.
Here are nine holiday events happening throughout town:
The Nutcracker: Home for the Holidays
A cherished pastime for many families, the Austin Ballet Nutcracker will be held virtually this year. The beloved tradition is available as a digital film through on-demand viewing with a donation to the Austin Ballet, starting at $30 for a nine day viewing. Other donation options include an exclusive access alternative for a $100 donation, with three weeks on-demand viewing of the film, extra bonus material and fun virtual events. The last option available is a VIP exclusive access for a $250 donation, which includes another exclusive access ticket that can be gifted, plus all the benefits.
This year, don't miss out on the magical tale and battle against the evil mouse king, instead get the family together with snacks and blankets and watch the special Christmas event comfortably from home. More information on the event can be found here.
Trail of Lights
The 56th annual Trail of Lights transitioned to a drive-thru experience this year to provide a COVID-19 safe experience. The Austin tradition will illuminate the city with over 2 million lights at Zilker Park until Jan. 3.
General admission tickets range from $25-$35 per vehicle, depending on entry time. Guests can also purchase a dash pass on selected dates for $60 per vehicle, including a box of holiday cookies, an ATX Lights Saving Card and early entry between 5:45-7 p.m. Tickets and more information on the Austin Trail of Lights can be found here.
The SoCo Stroll
Music Lane and the South Congress Avenue Shopping District are celebrating Christmas this year with a new tradition: The Soco Stroll. The event will last until the end of the month and is a self-guided walking tour of Music Lane and South Congress Avenue featuring lighted window displays, local shops, food and beverages, live music and more.
The event is completely free and masks are encouraged, so wear your favorite coat and strut around town to this new holiday tradition. More information on the SoCo Stroll can be found here.
Pop! A Rockin' Holiday Concert
Zach Theatre will host an hour long holiday concert with performances from Chanel, Kenny Williams, Daniel Rowan, Leslie McDonael, Roderick Sanford, Jessica O'Brien and Judy R. Arnold.
The event will be held outside of the Topfer theater with socially distant seating. Pods can be reserved for two to six people and tickets range from $92-$383 depending on seat location. Guests can enjoy performances of holiday classics while enjoying drinks available at their outdoor bar. Tickets and more information on Pop! A Rockin' Holiday Concert can be found here.
Peppermint Parkway is hosting its first holiday drive-thru experience at Circuit of the Americas. With millions of lights and a carnival, Peppermint Parkway is the perfect event for people of all ages. After driving through the light show, COTA will also host Peppermint Plaza, where guests can enjoy the COTALAND Kiddie Amusement Park with a ferris wheel, games, trains, food and a meet and greet with Pepper and Mint, the Peppermint Parkway mascots. Tickets are $35 per vehicle for standard admission. Guests can also purchase three different types of upgraded tickets ranging from $60-$90 per vehicle. Tickets and more information on Peppermint Parkway can be found here.
Downtown Holiday Stroll
The 26th annual Downtown Holiday Stroll is returning for a month-long celebration with free activities throughout downtown. The stroll is back for 2020 as a safe and socially-distance experience, including family-friendly activities, window displays, photo-ops, live music, holiday shopping and appearances from beloved Santa and Mrs. Claus until Dec. 31.
Holiday strollers can pick up a downtown holiday passport filled with deals, discounts and activities for the whole month from any participating business or can print one at home. More information on the Downtown Holiday Stroll can be found here.
Luminations at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Stroll through Luminations at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center to view the botanical oasis covered in thousands of sparkling lights. The event is a one-way one-mile path through the Texas Arboretum, with select structures of Fortlandia and audio and visual art installations.
The event, taking place until Jan. 3, is taking reservations and operating at a limited capacity to ensure a safe experience. Tickets are $18 for ages over 18, $10 for ages five-seven and free for children under the age of four. More information on the Luminations at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center can be found here.
Mozart's Light Show
Mozart's Coffee Roasters are continuing their tradition with Mozart's Light Show, featuring shining light displays, live music, beverages and treats. Every show will have a live music experience, varying in musical guests. Mozart's At Your Table trays can also be preordered featuring bottomless hot chocolate and coffee, fresh-baked brownies and cookies and giant cinnamon sugar and salt pretzels.
Table reservations start at $10 per table and are available for parties of up to six people. Mozart's will be spacing tables six feet apart to ensure guest safety. Tickets and more information on Mozart's Light Show can be found here.
Christmas themed trivia nights at Pluckers Wing Bar
Pluckers Wing Bar is hosting two virtual Christmas themed trivia nights to kick off the holiday season. The first game night hosted by Pluckers will be a Christmas themed family trivia night held on Facebook Live at 6 p.m. Dec. 20. The kid-friendly game night will have three rounds of Christmas themed trivia and fun physical challenges for the whole family.
If you're looking for a trivia night to compete with all your friends, Pluckers is hosting its second trivia night for teams on Dec. 23 at 7:30 p.m. Round up a team of your friends to answer 10 questions in different categories. Guests will also receive a free menu item on their next order at Pluckers. You can register to participate here.
This is part of a holiday series counting down to Christmas, so make sure to visit Austonia tomorrow, as we reach seven days until Christmas.
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Five Austin companies joined Google's second Startups Black Founders Fund on Wednesday, earning $100,000 each as part of the $10 million initiative geared toward giving Black entrepreneurs access to funding for their startups.
The fund gave $100,000 to 50 founders nationwide, including Austin companies CustomerX.i, Journey Foods, Sandbox Commerce, The Mentor Method and Tadeblock.
The founders will receive the funding without giving up any ownership of their startups and will gain access to Google technical support including up to $120,000 in donated search Ads from Google.org and up to $100,000 in Google Cloud credits. The Austin companies will also join a select few—the fund is only two years old and last year rewarded 76 Black-led startups with up to $100,000 as well.
Google's Startup funds can be used to boost Black founders' companies into success—last year, founders raised up to $50 million in capital after recieving the funds, and 80% of the companies used their funds to create jobs.
Founders from last year's batch then paid it forward by nominating new companies and announcing the winners via Zoom.
Here's a look at those 5 founders in Austin:
Hakeem James- Customer X.I
Customer X.I founder Hakeem James wants to help small restaurants thrive.
Customer X.I founder Hakeem James wants to keep mom-and-pop shops alive. That's why he started his company to bridge "the gap between online and offline" and give restaurants and small businesses a centralized location to analyze their data against competitors.
"The question we ask internally: is it simple enough for my grandmother to use? For the record, my grandmother sometimes picks up the phone upside down," James told Microsoft.
The company's data can help businesses small and large better understand their customers—from their names to their drink choices—to build better relationships and customer loyalty.
But it hasn't been easy, especially as labor shortages and COVID safety policies affect restaurants during the pandemic. James said he heard about Google for Startups at Austin's entrepreneur hub, Capital Factory. He and the team will use the funding to create "freemium" plans as they seek to keep restaurants open.
"It has also allowed us to offer our products to restaurants that need it most on a freemium basis to keep their doors open and accelerate their growth when it has never been harder to do so," James said. "Being recognized and backed by Google is monumental for us; it is a signal to our partners of our growing success in the market and the expanded capacity we now have to serve our clients."
Riana Lynn- Journey Foods
Lynn said the startup fund will help level the playing field for Black entrepreneurs that may not get the funding they need.
"The Google for Startups Black Founders Fund is a strong step in increasing the significant discrepancies in funding to many groups of founders, especially founders of color," Lynn said. "The funds will be used to add more science and engineering talent to our team and improve our impact in supply chains."
The company takes a step further back in the food industry process by merging research and development for food companies. Through comprehensive food data, Journey Foods helps provide insights on ingredients, pricing, manufacturing, and supply chain information to companies across the food industry.
From suppliers to packaging companies, Journey Foods hopes to reduce waste and costs by streamlining the food creation process.
Sterling Smith- Sandbox Commerce
Sandbox Commerce CEO Sterling Smith wasn't given a heads-up when he earned a spot in the Black Startups Fund- instead, he thought he was in his final interview.
Smith, who founded the app company in 2018, expressed his gratitude for the funding.
"Everyone involved, I really appreciate you guys betting on Sandbox," Smith said. "I can tell my mom now, right?"
Sandbox Commerce looks to create simple apps for companies without any technical or coding skills needed. The company looks to especially help the underdogs, including small businesses or underrepresented companies, in bridging the gap between computer skills and entrepreneurs.
Janice Omadeke- The Mentor Method
The Mentor Method is a consulting firm that helps companies recruit and retain employees through mentorship. (The Mentor Method/Facebook)
The Mentor Method, founded by Janice Omadeke, has been featured by Forbes and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for its multi-step method of promoting employee retention and fulfillment. Omadeke has also won Capital Factory's $100k Female Founder competition award.
The company focuses on inclusivity, closing opportunity gaps and building talent through its mentorship method, which involves a matching algorithm that brings employees and mentors quickly together. The Mentor Method has been used by high-profile programs including the Department of Education and Glassdoor.
Omadeke said the startup will use its fund to create jobs, including a Product Coordinator, and boost an employee benefits package.
"The Google for Startups Black Founders Fund will help us scale faster and address the core needs of companies seeking to retain their employees," Omadeke said.
Mbiyimoh Ghogomu- Tradeblock
Now a company used by tens of thousands, Tradeblock had humble beginnings—it was once just an Instagram page for sneakerheads.
Founder Mbiyimoh Ghogomu teamed up with childhood friends Tony Malveaux and Darren Smith to transform the page throughout the pandemic and create a network for sneaker lovers to enjoy. With their motto "Kicks as Currency," sneakerheads can trade sneakers without ever touching their piggy bank.
For Ghogomu, the company and Black Starters fund are both about one thing-fostering community.
"Getting recognized by Google as part of the Black Founders Fund is a game-changer for us," Ghogomu said. "My co-founders and team have been working really hard to disrupt the sneaker x tech space and inspire community building. The funds, relationships and overall support that Tradeblock is gaining will take us to the next level."
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A member of the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (ICRC) contacted council members asking for their home addresses despite a charter provision prohibiting the ICRC from considering such information in its mapping process, according to emails obtained by the Bulldog through a public information request.
Four council members or their staffers replied providing home addresses: Alison Alter, Paige Ellis, Mackenzie Kelly, and Leslie Pool, according to the emails dated August 9th to Aug. 17.
Austinites will once again be able to take a nonstop flight to London as Austin-Bergstrom International Airport resumes transatlantic travel this fall.
Starting Oct. 13, British Airways will offer its direct flight from ABIA to London-Heathrow Airport three times a week on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. The airline, which has been operating in Austin since 2013, had halted service at the start of the pandemic over a year ago.
"We can't wait to welcome our customers back on board our Austin flights and we are honored to be playing our part in reuniting families and friends with their loved ones after such a long time apart," said Marie Hilditch, British Airways' head of North America sales.
Safety protocols the airline is taking include:
- social distancing measures
- wearing of facemasks
- providing hand sanitizer stations
- cleaning all surfaces after every flight
- fully recycling the air once every two to three minutes through HEPA filters, which remove microscopic bacteria and virus clusters with over 99.9% efficiency
The announcement comes as COVID-19 testing requirements to enter the UK are scheduled to stop on Oct. 4. for vaccinated Americans.
Additionally, a Monday White House announcement allows fully vaccinated international travelers to enter the U.S. starting in early November with proof of a negative COVID-19 test. The ban, which was implemented in 2020, restricted travelers from a number of European countries, Iran and China throughout the pandemic.