If there is one thing Austinites love more than their breakfast tacos, it’s their festivals. Whether it be the three-day, hipster dance party of Austin City Limits Music Festival; the Rastafarian dreadlock gathering of Reggae Fest; or the weeklong, city-wide frenzy of South By Southwest, there is always something happening within the city limits on any given Saturday afternoon.
But standing apart from the rest of these chaotic festivities is the quiet, unobtrusive, two-day street fair is the Pecan Street Festival.
There is a certain charm surrounding the Pecan Street Festival that serves as a subtle testament to the small-town atmosphere that radiates through the eclectic city streets. Occurring biannually since the fall of 1978 when artist Amado Peña designed the first-ever Pecan Street Festival poster upon request by French Smith III, the event has become one of Austin’s many rock-solid traditions.
“Thirty years ago, nobody really knew what it was going to become,” Peña said. “But it’s kind of become a tradition now.”
Peña has attended all but one festival and doesn’t see that changing anytime soon. Despite the exponential growth of Austin and the event, he still feels right at home in the city that bred his career.
“Austin is still home to me even though I’ve been in New Mexico for 30 years,” Peña said. “The festival is a lot of hard work, but it’s always a lot of fun to see my friends and meet with the people who collect my work.”
On the first morning of the festival, the iconic stretch of road gives rise to a lane of artist and artisan tents. These performers and vendors are chosen by Special Events Management Group, LLC, the group selected by the Old Pecan Street Association to run the festival ever since 2006.
“We do like to have a lot of Austin artists,” Elana Logsdon of the special event group said. “But we also like to expect people from all over the country. This year we have a few international artists as well.”
With the diverse group of artists, artisans, musicians and vendors present, the festival continues to pay homage to the homegrown talent Austin prides itself on. No Austin event is complete without a tasteful — or distasteful — array of local musicians that add to the city’s reputation as a music mecca.
The festival has everything from alcoholic popsicles to walking pet balloons.
“It offers folks an opportunity to enjoy downtown and enjoy folks who have a wonderful, beautiful thing to offer,” City Council member Laura Morrison said. “I’ve been around Austin for quite awhile, and it’s certainly one of our longest-running festivals. I personally enjoy it, and I think it brings a lot of happiness to the city.”
The Pecan Street Festival’s simplicity and local charm highlights a side of Austin that is frequently overlooked.
“Every time I go, it’s like a homecoming,” Peña said. “I may live in New Mexico now, but I’ll always be a Texas boy.”
The 2012 Fall Pecan Street Festival will be held on Sixth Street Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
What: 2012 Fall Pecan Street Festival
When: Sept. 29, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. and Sept. 30, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
Where: Sixth Street
Printed on Friday, September 28, 2012 as: Festival recalls true local charm