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.


Fitness studio Body20 is coming soon to Bee Cave's Hill Country Galleria. (Courtesy Giant Noise Public Relations)
New fitness studio, candy pop-up shop coming to Hill Country Galleria

A new candy pop-up shop and fitness studio are coming to Bee Cave's Hill Country Galleria.

Photo of Austin Community College pharmacy students preparing vaccines
Austin Public Health ramps up COVID-19 booster shot offerings, prepares for pediatric vaccines

High-risk individuals who received Pfizer are Moderna doses six months ago or more are now eligible for boosters—as are most recipients of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The first-ever Williamson County Fair and Rodeo opens its gates to guests Oct. 21 with live music, carnival rides, food vendors, rodeo events and more. (Courtesy Pexels)
CI NATION ROUNDUP: Inaugural Williamson County Fair and Rodeo underway; delivery drones coming to Friso and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across all of Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas as of Oct. 22.

Rendering of the UT Leona Child Development Center
UT Austin set to open new Child Development Center east of I-35

A new university child care facility is headed to 2216 Leona St.

Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Grey briefed City Council on Austin's spending of more than $100 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding on homelessness Oct. 21. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Officials share outlook of 3-year plan to house 3,000 homeless people in Austin

Although the path to build more than 1,000 new spaces for those without shelter will take time, officials believe the goals are achievable.

Photo off APD sign
Austin police cadet academy review notes positive strides but says instructors lack buy-in to 'reimagined' concept

Reforms at the Austin Police Department academy are mixed so far, while the department and outside evaluators agree on several potential improvements going forward.

Franklin Barbecue in East Austin closed its dining room in March 2020. (Courtesy Franklin Barbecue)
Franklin Barbecue to reopen dining room on 11th Street in Austin

The dining room will reopen just before Thanksgiving.

Cumby Group is planning development for three adjacent multifamily projects on Manor Road in East Austin, including The Emma apartments. (Courtesy Cumby Group)
3 years in, Austin is falling behind on goals in affordable housing plan

From 2018-20, the city only reached 12% of its 10-year goal to build thousands of new homes and rental units.

Taco Palenque is now open as drive-thru only in Round Rock. (Brooke Sjoberg/Community Impact Newspaper)
CI NATION ROUNDUP: Taco Palenque opens in Round Rock; Plano ISD considering two draft calendars for 2022-23 school year and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across all of Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas as of Oct. 21.

The Austin Transit Partnership is exploring above- and below-ground options for a transit center at the East Riverside Drive and South Pleasant Valley intersection. (Courtesy Austin Transit Partnership)
Project Connect plans to explore above-, below-ground options for East Riverside/Pleasant Valley Transit Center

After hosting a community design workshop, the group overseeing Project Connect designs is moving forward with options for both an underground and above-ground station at the intersection.

A calculator created by the Rocky Mountain Institute looks at the environmental impact of TxDOT's proposed designs for I-35 in Central Austin, one of the most congested roadways in the country. (Benton Graham/Community Impact Newspaper)
Nonprofit's tool says TxDOT I-35 expansion proposals would have profound environmental consequences

The tool says that the proposal would create between 255 and 382 million additional vehicle miles traveled per year.