3 weeks before first weekend, ACL Music Festival awaits permit, final health and safety procedures

Photo of a sign in a field
Parts of Zilker Park will shut down in preparation for the annual Austin City Limits Music Festival beginning Sept. 20. (Deeda Lovett/Community Impact Newspaper)

Parts of Zilker Park will shut down in preparation for the annual Austin City Limits Music Festival beginning Sept. 20. (Deeda Lovett/Community Impact Newspaper)

Three weeks before ACL Festival's first weekend, Zilker Park's Great Lawn remains empty, bearing few hints of the massive event on the horizon, save for a posted sign announcing that the lawn and adjacent parking lots will close to prepare for the festival beginning Sept. 20.

Festival organizers have yet to receive a permit for the event, the city of Austin confirmed Sept. 14, but city representative Sara Henry said this timeline is "not uncommon."

"It is not unusual for special events permits to be approved a few days before an event begins. In 2019, for example, the city was still reviewing plans for the ACL permit up to Sept. 26," Henry said.

While organizer C3 Presents awaits approval for its permit, certain health and safety factors also remain in flux. ACL's health and safety guidelines require festival visitors to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours before entry to Zilker Park or, alternatively, proof of full vaccination against COVID-19. The city's recently updated special event permitting guidance, however, states that all visitors to large events should be able to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test but does not specify that vaccinated individuals are exempt from the requirement.

As of Sept. 17, the city of Austin had not responded to inquiries from Community Impact Newspaper regarding whether ACL organizers would need to mandate COVID-19 tests for all visitors, regardless of vaccination status. However, APH director Adrienne Sturrup indicated that proof of vaccination should be accepted at large events during a Sept. 17 news conference.


"A patron has the option of opting out of testing by showing proof of vaccination," Sturrup said.

C3 did not respond to questions about the option to present proof of vaccination before publication time. However, a representative for the company told Community Impact Newspaper Sept. 14 that the 72-hour requirement means that weekend passholders will need to take a COVID-19 test the Friday before for it to validate entry for an entire three-day weekend. For instance, a test taken Sept. 29 would allow for entry Oct. 1 but not the following days, Oct. 2 and Oct. 3. That guidance conflicts with the messaging in some promotional materials—including a Sept. 14 email from the Austin Parks Foundation seeking volunteers for the festival, which said test results needed to be dated 72 hours prior to "your first show day on-site."

The same email from the APF said masks would be required for all volunteers who could not show proof of vaccination in outdoor spaces and required for everyone, regardless of vaccination status, in indoor spaces. ACL and C3 have yet not announced what masking rules will be in place for all visitors and said in an August press release that information about masking would be available closer to the festival. However, the city of Austin's special event permitting guidance says "mask zones" will be required at events where 6 feet of social distancing is not possible.

C3 has not commented yet on whether testing services will be available onsite. However, Sturrup said Sept. 17 that APH is not planning to offer testing at Zilker Park during the festival weekends.

"With respect to providing testing options at ACL, just due to the size of the event, that wouldn't be an efficient practice. We encourage patrons to get the test at least 72 hours before, or if you can get a rapid test that shows 24 hours prior to showing up that you're COVID free, that would work too," Sturrup said.

Editor's note: This story was updated Sept. 17 with new information from Austin Public Health and local officials. Community Impact Newspaper will continue to provide updates as this story develops.
By Olivia Aldridge

Reporter, Central Austin

Olivia joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in March 2019. She covers public health, business, development and Travis County government. A graduate of Presbyterian College in South Carolina, Olivia worked as a reporter and producer for South Carolina Public Radio before moving to Texas. Her work has appeared on NPR and in the New York Times.



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