SXSW is back this week and in person for the first time in three years
Austin officials are welcoming back South by Southwest attendees this week for the first time in three years. The 2020 event was canceled days before the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. Two years later, a lot more is known about the virus. There are vaccines and conditions are improving in Travis County.
Austin dropped from Stage 5 COVID threat to Stage 2 in just eight days. And as those indicators have improved, so have badge sales for South by Southwest, as fear of missing out on the first in-person conference in three years creeps in.
“We will anticipate continuing to see more badge sales and some of our biggest sales are actually our walk-up sales,” said Tami Richter, vice president of event operations for SXSW. “We are looking forward to almost a normal little hustle and bustle here in Austin for South by Southwest.”
The festival is still planning to enforce COVID policies it set several months ago. Attendees will have to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test result for credentialed and free events open to the public. There is on-site testing available.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler, Travis County Judge Andy Brown and other local officials gathered at City Hall on Monday to stress health, safety and public transit plans ahead of the event.
With spring break and the festival season beginning, Austin Public Health is still recommending people wear masks indoors and where social distancing is not possible.
“At least through March 20,” Dr. Desmar Walkes, the city's health authority, said at a news conference. “And why is that? Well, there are lots of out-of-towners that will be coming from places with higher levels of community spread.”
Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon said officers will be focused on crowd control and DUI enforcement, as well as looking out for the unlawful carrying of weapons.
“[The increased presence improves] the safety and overall perception of safety so that people not only are safe but feel safe while they’re here in our city enjoying this wonderful time,” he said.
The education track of South by Southwest — EDU — began Monday. The conference and festivals begin in earnest Friday.