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(ACL Radio via city of Austin)

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From bikers to bats to blues music, nearly 100 festivals in Austin have either been canceled, rescheduled or are up in the air as pandemic-era social distancing forbids Austinites to do what they do best: party together.

They include myriad events anticipated for later this year, such as:


  • Blues on the Green summer concerts
  • 25th Annual Republic of Texas Biker Rally
  • July 4th events
  • Pecan Street festivals
  • Batfest
  • Austin City Limits

March, April and May alone saw the cancelation or postponement of some 30 iconic large events, including:

  • The Urban Music Festival
  • Moontower Comedy & Oddity Festival
  • Austin Reggae Fest
  • Food + Wine Festival
  • Weird Homes Tour,
  • East Austin Studio Tour
  • Eeyore's Annual Birthday Party

Several are rescheduled for the fall, but even those months are uncertain for large gatherings right now.

"It's just a sad time," said Julie Chase, chief marketing officer for Visit Austin, the city's tourism convention and visitors department. "We are a festival city."

The cancelation the SXSW festival (and its roughly 180 ancillary events) was a bellwether for an event industry decimated by the pandemic restrictions.

Local crews, performers and hospitality workers were hit early and hard and will likely feel the effects the longest, said Sara Henry of the Austin Center for Events, which oversees event permits.

"We're all very conscious of that and wanting to get people back to normal as quickly as possible," Henry said. "But with the understanding that those large events will probably be the last to recover."

Large crowds will be scarce in Austin for a while, agreed Jorge Garcia, founder of Curra's Grill and a member of the board for the Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival, which has not yet confirmed its August dates.

"I don't foresee any of that happening any time soon," Garcia said.

Some organizers are staying optimistic. The ROT Biker Rally is still on for mid-June. Organizers of the city's 30th Annual Gay PRIDE Festival in August said in an April tweet they are "still committed to putting on a safe and joyous" celebration, which drew some 400,000 people last year.

The permit office works daily with organizers, even those whose events are still scheduled, on whether the events can go on, Henry said. The office also consults with health officials, events experts and community leaders about what the "the new normal" might look like for mass gatherings this year and next, she said.

But with ever-shifting information on the virus and the response to it, major decisions are on hold.

"Everybody is waiting to see how things evolve through the public health crisis," Henry said.

As a habitual and enthusiastic festival attendee, Austin resident Anna Kong recognizes the impact on local workers but did find a silver lining: It's easier to stay home when there's nothing to miss out on.

"I usually go to fests to hang out with my friends," Kong said. "We've had camp meetings over Zoom, so it placates it for the time being."

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