Planned in conjunction with the 2013 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix, Austin Fan Fest took over 12 square blocks of downtown this week. Obviously lots of lessons were learned from last year’s inaugural event. One key change was that local media encouraged Austinites to attend Fan Fest instead of scaring everyone away with predictions of gridlocked traffic.
Traffic flow was better this year because only the east-west streets were closed and major thoroughfares like Lavaca, Guadalupe, and Congress were kept open. Bill and I were able to get in and out of downtown during the day without problems while everyone was out at the racetrack. Even Saturday’s conflicting UT football game didn’t seem to cause any more backups than would be normal for a home game day.
This year, organizers tried to make Fan Fest more family-friendly with games, crafts, zip lines, and climbing inflatables. This hamster-ball-in-water-bounce-house thing looked like great fun. Too bad there wasn’t an adult version.
The schedule for live music was improved this year too. More well-known groups such as Los Lobos (pictured below), Los Lonely Boys, Everlast, and Berlin played free sets. The musical highlight of the weekend was Saturday night’s Sting concert at the ACL Live-Moody Theater. That show was not free—quite pricey, in fact—so we did not see him.
Bill and I could have done without one so-called improvement: Fan Fest ended at 12 AM on three of the four evenings. Our building was surrounded by music blaring from six stages from early afternoon until midnight. Thursday evening was particularly annoying when temperatures dropped into the 40s and the streets were mostly deserted…but the bands still played until midnight. So, by Sunday evening, we were very grateful for the earlier 8 PM closing.