After canceling last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, Austin City Limits Music Festival is expected to resume Zilker Park for the first two weekends in October. With Austin still under Stage 5 coronavirus risk guidelines, questions remain as to what the massive event, which typically draws 75,000 people per day, will look like this year. Here is what we know.

I heard Austin didn’t give a license to the ACL festival. Is it even going to happen?

Recent reports that the city of Austin had not yet issued a special event permit for the festival were misleading, as this permit was historically only issued closer to the date of the event.

“It’s not uncommon,” city representative Bryce Bencivengo told the American-Stateman on September 9. Although he could not cite the precise date of the issuance of the ACL Fest 2019 permit, he noted that a review of the files indicated was not before September 26, “eight days before the start of this year’s festival. -the.

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We also asked the Austin Department of Parks and Recreation for details of the city’s contract with ACL Fest and got a similar response. “It’s still being finalized at the moment,” said Kanya Lyons, public information specialist at the parks department. “It will be signed and available soon.”

Do I have to take a COVID-19 test before going to the ACL Festival?

This is not clear at the moment, which is sure to confuse festival-goers.

According to guidelines from the ACL Fest website, fans will be required to present either a printed copy of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours or full proof of vaccination at the door each day. The test results should include your name, the date of the test, and the negative test result, which means a photo of a home test is not going to cut it.

A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving their second injection of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The last day to get that final shot and be considered fully vaccinated for ACL Fest is September 17 (for Weekend 1) and September 24 (Weekend 2).

When the statesman asked for confirmation from the city, things got more murky.

On August 27, the Austin Center for Events announced updated COVID-19 guidelines for events like ACL Fest that take place on city property or a park and require a special events permit. The new guidelines state that indoor events with 1,000 or more people and outdoor events with 2,500 or more people must screen event attendees at the entrances and require proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours before the event.

On September 1, the statesman asked if events like ACL Fest could substitute proof of vaccination for a negative COVID-19 test under the new guidelines. Sara Henry, public information and marketing program manager at the Austin Center for Events, did not respond directly. Henry said, “The city of Austin does not have a vaccination requirement on events. As a result, an event organizer makes immunization-related decisions independent of the city. “

Then, on Friday, Austin’s acting director of public health Adrienne Sturrup told a press briefing: “Right now, health and safety guidelines recommend organizers to events to request proof of a negative test within 72 hours of the event. a client has the option of opting out of the test by showing proof of vaccination. ”

“Due to the size of the event,” Sturrup said, “it would not be an efficient practice” for Austin Public Health to provide on-site testing.

As of this writing, Henry had not responded to a request for comment on Friday.

Can I still get tickets for the ACL Festival?

When the three-day passes for the ACL festival went on sale in May, vaccines were becoming widely available and cases were on the decline. They sold out in record time. The same thing happened a week later when the festival released one-day tickets.

For weeks, ticket prices verified on the official festival ticket exchange site were all $ 100 or more above asking price. But with the summer spike in COVID-19 infections caused by the delta variant, prices for three-day passes have dropped significantly. On Thursday, three-day passes were available for both festival weekends for less than this year’s $ 275 pre-registration price. Day tickets for both Saturdays of the festival and the first Friday were still over $ 200. (The original sale price was $ 135.) Sunday day tickets were available for $ 150.

The festival has added a fan waiting list for tickets. You can register with your e-mail address, postal address and payment information; if a ticket becomes available, you will be automatically debited.

What if I test positive for COVID-19 or need to quarantine? Is redeeming tickets my only refund option?

Festival-goers urged to make a fan health pledge stating that they will not attend ACL Fest within 14 days of testing positive for COVID-19; exposure to someone who has tested positive; or if they have symptoms compatible with COVID-19.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you can submit a refund request at There is a section on the form where you can attach a copy of your positive test results.

If you are within the 14 day isolation window following confirmed exposure, you are also eligible for a refund. The festival organizers ask you to send a detailed description of your situation, your order number and your ticket details to [email protected]

Do I have to wear a mask at the ACL Festival? It’s outside, isn’t it?

According to the city’s new guidelines for special events, organizers must develop social distancing strategies and implement “mask zones” in outdoor event areas where it is not possible to do so. maintain a distance of 6 feet between participants.

As anyone who has attended ACL Fest before will know, there is more pushing and claiming for a good position than distancing of any kind from all the main stages. Compliance with mask mandates at Austin music events has been spotty at best.

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It’s unclear how mask requirements would be enforced in the park. “We are still working with the organizers (of the ACL Fest) on how to meet the security requirements for their event,” the representative of the city of Bencivengo told us last week.

The festival website says information regarding the masks will be released closer to the festival dates.

When asked when this information would be available, Bencivengo said it had not yet been determined. “We don’t want to give a date and then pop something up – a different peak or a substantial drop” in COVID-19 cases, he said.

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How did the other big outdoor events go this summer in Austin?

The closest parallel to the ACL Fest is the event’s sister festival, Lollapalooza, which took place in Grant Park in Chicago on the last weekend of July. Lollapalooza had the same requirement for a negative COVID-19 test or proof of vaccination and the same fan health pledge that the ACL Fest implemented. After the festival, Chicago health officials said the event did not lead to an increase in coronavirus infections.

Writing in the Washington Post earlier this month, Brown University physician and health policy researcher Ashish K. Jha compared Lollapalooza to the 10-day motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, which s ‘took place without enhanced security measures against COVID-19 in August. This event preceded a 600% spike in infections in South Dakota, although Jha believes indoor afterparties were likely a key factor in the rate of spread, not outdoor gatherings.

(Closer to home, we’re watching to see what happens as University of Texas football resumes events at full capacity without any COVID-19 testing at the gate.)

In Jha’s analysis of these events, the “pandemic guide” for major events was “simple”.

“Make sure you have a highly immunized population. Check the immunization status of people. Demand rapid and frequent testing, especially for the unvaccinated. Improve indoor air quality and use intermittent masking if necessary.” , he wrote.

“[ACL Fest] the organizers are implementing mitigation strategies that were used at Lollapalooza in Chicago. People are expected to be vaccinated or to test negative. And, as a result, it provides a level of security and reduces risk, ”Sturrup said at Friday’s press conference.

Heather Osbourne contributed to this report.

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