SXSW was canceled because of the coronavirus, but I headed to Austin anyway. This is what it's like.
- Claire Shefchik is a travel and culture writer in the British Virgin Islands.
- This year, she planned to attend South by Southwest (
SXSW) in Austin, Texas for the first time, but the culture and tech festival was canceled as part of a nationwide attempt to stave off further spread of the coronavirus.
- Shefchik decided to keep her travel plans after hearing that many unofficial events would still be happening in Austin this week.
- While she did find lively crowds at some local bars and venues, "it was as if a giant broom had swept everyone over the age of 40 off the streets," she writes.
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It was 2 p.m. on Thursday, March 12, the day before SXSW had been scheduled to start. A giant plastic giraffe greets us as we enter Unbarlievable, where a solo cover singer with an acoustic guitar takes requests from four or five people gathered; one gets the impression he'd be happy to play anything from ABBA to ZZ Top just to keep us around. A sign in front of the bar across the street reads, "I attended SXSW and all I got was this lousy
A staple of Austin
Quiet, empty streetsAdvertisement
The unofficial SXSW
'We knew people were going to go out anyway'Advertisement
Events were still happening
A nice breakAdvertisement
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