Austin's SXSW Festival Canceled Over Coronavirus Fears

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Festival attendees crowd downtown Austin streets at last year's SXSW. - JAIME MONZON
  • Jaime Monzon
  • Festival attendees crowd downtown Austin streets at last year's SXSW.
Organizers of Austin's ever-expanding SXSW music, technology and film festival have pulled the plug on the annual gathering, citing concerns over the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The event, which started in 1987, drew more than 417,000 attendees last year, and a number of San Antonio musical acts, filmmakers and tech companies were scheduled to attend this year. Around a quarter of festival goers attend from outside the United States.

The 10-day festival was set to kick off Friday, March 13. However, things began looking bleak after a string of high-profile tech companies — Twitter, Intel and Facebook among them — announced cancellations.

Cinematographer and San Antonio native Steve Acevedo had already bought his plane ticket to Austin from his home in Los Angeles. His film Coded Bias, on which he served as the director of photography, was scheduled to screen five times during the festival.

“I was really looking forward to coming home for the week,” Acevedo told the Current when it broke the news to him this afternoon. “At least we were able to screen it at Sundance, but I’m pretty bummed.”

As recently as Tuesday, though, San Antonio musical acts said they were prepared to show up and perform their showcases.

“The coronavirus does not scare me,” Alamo City-based electronica artist Antonio Padrón told the Current earlier in the week. “Just stay clean, keep your hands washed, be sanitary [and] don’t put your fingers on sensitive membranes like your eyes or mouth.”

On Friday, the World Health Organization reported the world is nearing 100,000 COVID-19 cases.

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