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"You don't know what you have until it's gone," Jay, a 25-year-old researcher at the University of Texas told Austonia. He held a boat party on Lake Travis to celebrate himself and his friends getting vaccinated, something that has been taboo in the pandemic sphere.
After a year of staying indoors, social distancing and attending school online, Jay, who asked to remain anonymous to avoid potential backlash, said he feels relieved and has been enjoying activities he wasn't able to do as freely prior to vaccination: going to bars, having friends over and being around more than 10 people at a time.
"It made going to Zilker Park, a place that I've been to a number of times before, even more special," Jay said. "It also felt like this is one step closer to normalcy so it's definitely a comforting feeling."
As the curve flattens and vaccines become more widely available—with 61.22% of eligible Travis County residents at least partially vaccinated—"normal" is starting to return. And many vaccinated Austinites are rejoicing over their newfound freedom.
This coming Friday it will be the end of my two weeks of lockdown since my second vaccine shot. And you know what that means! As that classic song goes 🎵"I'm gonna party like it's the early part of 2019 before a deadly pandemic killed all of us."🎵 EVERYBODY! 👏 👏 👏
— Nathan Minger (@NathanMinger) May 3, 2021
My vaccinated powers have officially become fully activated 💥 pic.twitter.com/dNDbtZ8FcU
— Libby Koch (@libbykoch) April 15, 2021
Thirty-four-year-old Fabian Puente, an artist and musician, kept a tight-knit group of friends throughout the pandemic, so he could maintain a social life without worrying about catching the virus, but has since enjoyed eating out, going to the greenbelt and seeing movies in theaters since getting vaccinated.
"I feel like Superman," Puente, said. "The risk is much lower and that eases my mind a lot."
The pandemic has permanently changed him though—Puente said he's more conscious about washing his hands clean and still wears his mask to keep others safe. He doesn't feel quite normal yet, but he said that will change when he is able to go to concerts and perform again.
Groups that didn't feel safe meeting before most were vaccinated are now not only meeting in-person but also traveling together. Los Verdes, an Austin FC supporter group, was only able to hold a few in-person events before the pandemic. They've since started meeting again, the group has traveled to Minnesota, Colorado and California to watch games, attend outdoor watch parties and hold frequent events at Hopsquad Brewing.
"It has been a big release this spring to get back out and a lot of times meet people, lots of people that I've only known through Slack over the last year or on Twitter," member Jeremiah Bentley said. "It's been really joyful because a lot of us haven't had the chance to really actually spend much of any time together."
Bentley said that even though a lot of people in their group are enjoying being able to meet in person, they are still continuing Zoom events for those who aren't ready to face the world again and will continue to do so until everyone is comfortable meeting in person.
"The most important thing we can do is police our own," Bentley said. "The first Austin FC match at home is on June 19 and we'd all love to be in a full stadium together, standing shoulder-to-shoulder, and the only way that's going to happen is if a significant number of people get vaccinated between now and then."
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As the new Moody Center comes to life, homegrown tech giant, Dell Technologies, announced it is the premier founding partner for the new venue that will replace the Frank C. Erwin Center for Austin events and Austin entertainment.
The Moody Center, located at 2001 Robert Dedman Drive, will be the new home for University of Texas events, including graduation and basketball games, along with acting as a multi-purpose facility for the city that will serve for concerts and other events.
Through the partnership, just outside a section of the facility will be Dell Technologies Plaza, a place for post-game shows and community events. Dell will also donate tickets for Longhorns basketball games to the Boy & Girls Club of the Austin area.
It's been a long time coming for the Moody Center, which was first announced in December 2018; it broke ground one year later. It has since started booking shows for its debut in 2022, starting with pop sensation The Weeknd for April 2022. The facility, named after the Moody Foundation, will be able to expand to 15,000 seats.
In a live virtual media conversation with Senior Vice President of Global Brand and Experiential at Dell Liz Matthews, C3 Presents Partner Charles Attal said he sees the Moody Center changing Austin from a place world-class bands used to skip on tours to being the world-class venue they book multiple dates for.
Matthews said aside from the Moody Center maintaining Austin's music scene, it was important to Dell that it be an inclusive environment that will host women's basketball games, along with men's.
In the same conversation, UT's Minister of Culture Matthew McConaughey, who helped up with the vision of the facility, said the Moody Center is making wins—furthering the women's basketball program and bringing big-time bands to Austin—sustainable in the city for years to come. McConaughey quoted UT Athletic Director Chris Del Conte in what he see's the Moody Center being: "It should be the first place that a world-class band should want to come play, and the last place that a visiting basketball wants to come play."
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- A peek inside UT's new $338 million Moody Center - austonia ›
Events are back! City of Austin releases guidelines to bring back the Live Music Capital of the World
We're finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with the city of Austin moving forward with a plan to bring back events in a safe capacity. It looks like Austin City Limits and other concerts could really make the return most have hoped for this year.
Austin Center for Events and Austin Public Health have put together recommended guidelines for both indoor and outdoor events that encourage safe way to host events including social distancing and cleaning protocols. A full list of safety protocols can be viewed here.
Outdoor event organizers will be required to submit an application for a special events permit and fill out a health and safety form, which both will be reviewed by ACE and APH.
This is the first time in over a year that the city is encouraging the return of events since the pandemic. In its report on reopening recommendations, the city states "local venues, live music and events are paramount to Austin's culture and economy," citing $587 million in direct spending generated by the local meetings and convention industry in 2019; that close to 1.3 million people visit Austin's parks for festivals, outdoor weddings and other events; and that South by Southwest alone generated an estimated $355.9 million in economic impact.
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