Q2 Stadium swapped its Verde for red, white and blue as country music legend Willie Nelson returned for his first in-person Fourth of July Picnic since 2019 on Monday.
The music fest included fireworks, fun merch and acts from country greats including Charley Crockett, Midland, Brothers Osborne, Allison Russell, Tyler Childers, Jason Isbell and Austin's own Asleep at the Wheel. And while Q2 will have some kinks to straighten before it becomes a concert-hosting regular, Nelson's unifying spirit kept things cool during the 12-hour outdoor event.
Midland performed at Willie Nelson's Fourth of July Picnic. (Q2 Stadium/Twitter)
Doors opened at 11 a.m., and Asleep at the Wheel was on the stage by 12 p.m.—though as one Reddit post pointed out, there weren't many people there to see them play.
Q2 Stadium stayed sparsely populated for the first half of the day. (Claire Partain/Austonia)
Per Q2 Stadium policy, attendees weren't allowed to re-enter the venue after leaving, so anyone who wanted to watch both an afternoon and Nelson's big performance were stuck at the venue for hours straight. That opened up the perfect opportunity for customers to snatch up snacks, water and beers, which emptied wallets even faster than at Austin FC games. Nothing says "the end is nigh" like $15 beers.
An open-air, 20,500 seat venue, Q2 Stadium sometimes struggled to carry sound clearly, and between-song banter was often limited to an incomprehensible garble. Still, Tyler Childers' commanding growls came through, Alison Russells' multi-instrument ensemble shone and Nelson's strums on his trusty guitar, Trigger, were front and center by the end of the night.
Fans found it hard to look away from Tyler Childers' enrapturing performance. (Jakob Rodriguez)
The July 4th picnic, which was most recently held at Circuit of the Americas from 2015-2019, benefitted from Q2's more central location, and the large venue offered plenty of room for attendees to mull about.
As the sun mercifully dipped below the horizon, the music paused for a 15-minute fireworks show.
But the July 4th staples weren't the main event. At 89, Nelson didn't disappoint, sitting calmly as he performed alongside his family members and even gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke, who made a surprise appearance midway through the show.
.@BetoORourke and his son just joined @WillieNelson on stage for his annual 4th of July picnic in Austin pic.twitter.com/2kgr5yDogG
— Jeremy Wallace (@JeremySWallace) July 5, 2022
At times wistful, joyful or both, Nelson took the crowd through hits from "On the Road Again" to "Always on My Mind."
And as each favorite was played, all of the heat and stress of the day were encompassed by Nelson's voice, his storytelling and more as Austinites new and old gathered for the decades-old tradition.
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In his three years as an Uber driver in Austin, Salai Ya has seen a range of items left behind in his car: cell phones, wallets, sunglasses and bags.
It’s become such a pattern that Ya started reminding riders before they leave to check that they collected all of their belongings. Ya’s experience is quite common in Austin, as the city topped the list of the most forgetful cities for the second year in a row on Uber’s Lost & Found Index.
But it's not just an Austin trend. Other Texas cities that made the top 10 most forgetful include Houston and Dallas at No. 3 and No. 5, respectfully.
Ya said the people who forget stuff are commonly those who request rides downtown on weekend nights.
“It’s the time most people drink, hang out,” Ya said.
While Ya said the dark could add to the likelihood of riders leaving items behind, Uber reports 5 p.m. as being the most forgetful time of day.
On weekends, cash, fanny packs, IDs and clothing are the items likely to be left behind.
But there are also some unique items Uber reports people leaving behind including a brown tortoise, a spray tan machine, part of a soft-serve ice cream machine and even an urn with pet ashes and an urn with family member ashes.
If you plan on taking an Uber this Independence Day, make sure you’re mindful of your stuff. St. Patrick’s Day and July 4 were the most popular two days of the year to leave possessions in the back seat.
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It's almost America's birthday and you know what that means—time to celebrate like it's 2019.
With fireworks, corn dog eating contests, cookouts and crawfish boils galore, Austin businesses and restaurants are pulling out all the stops to make up for lost time and get people excited to exercise the freedom to party. Happening all on Sunday, no matter who you spend the holiday with, you're guaranteed to find an event for anyone but here are a few options to get you started.
H-E-B Austin Symphony 4th of July Concert, 8 p.m.
The Austin Symphony Orchestra and the City of Austin are banding together for the return of its Fourth of July concert, putting on a symphonic and patriotic free concert under the stars. Enjoy vendors with food, crafts and gifts, as well as guest speakers who will kick off the event at Auditorium Shores and the Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive, ending the evening with a brilliant fireworks display over the expanding skyline.
Hill Country Galleria’s Independence Day Festival, 4-10 p.m.
After a year of hiatus, the Hill Country Galleria, 12700 Hill Country Blvd, is resurrecting the annual Independence Day Festival with fun for the whole family. The free event will take place in the shopping center's expansive outdoor space with live local music, more than 75 vendors and kids entertainment in addition to the permanent restaurants and shops on the property. The celebration will conclude with a fireworks show on the lawn at the end of the night.
Fireworks at Dreamland, 10 p.m.
There is no better place in Central Texas to watch fireworks than Dripping Springs, where the dark sky community provides the perfect blank canvas for Dreamland, 2770 US-290, to put on a vibrant display. The outdoor arts and entertainment center will have all the normal activities, like mini-golf and pickleball, plus locally sourced food and drink specials available from its on-site food trucks and taproom. Fireworks will begin on the main stage at 10 p.m.
Lobster & Friends at Launderette, 12-8 p.m.
If you're looking to break tradition and skip the traditional backyard cookout this year, Launderette, 2115 Holly Street, is holding its third annual Lobster & Friends seafood boil in celebration of Independence Day. For $50 per guest, the menu includes plenty of lobster, shrimp, crab, clams, mussels, sausage, corn, potatoes, sides and festive desserts to nosh on. Tickets must be reserved beforehand either for dine-in or to-go orders.
4th Of July Corn Dog Eating Contest, 4 p.m.
If a little competition is what you're after for America's birthday, Black Sheep Lodge, 2108 S. Lamar Blvd., is exercising the freedom "to eat as damn much as we can, as fast as we can" by hosting its 11th annual corn dog eating contest in addition to food and drink specials for the holiday. Contestants must pay a $20 entrance fee that will earn you a chance for the gold and a commemorative T-shirt, while the "Grand Champeen" will score $250 in cash. Reserve a spot by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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