Big weekend festivals facing the potential for heavy rain

Festival organizers are keeping a close eye on the weather forecast the weekend of Aug. 20, 2016 (KXAN Photo)
Festival organizers are keeping a close eye on the weather forecast the weekend of Aug. 20, 2016 (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — There are several large events going on in Austin this weekend. Many of them are annual festivals, which gear their timing to fall on what is historically a hot, dry couple of days in August. Unfortunately, there is the potential for widespread heavy rain this weekend, on top of soils that have become saturated with flash flooding already this week.

The 12th Annual Bat Fest ATX presented by Roadway Productions runs from 4 p.m.–midnight at the Congress Avenue Bridge on Saturday, August 20. Organizers say this is rain-or-shine event, with live music, arts and crafts, beer and food. If the weather gets bad, festival-goers can leave and return when conditions calm down. Everyone will get a wristband, which will make it easy to come and go, according to founder French Smith.

French has put up three sound stages, but they’re in slightly different locations than last year to account for the chance of storms. One sound stage has been moved under the carport of the Austin-American Statesman. A fourth stage was erected but won’t be used: it sits on the Hike and Bike Trail. It was one of the most popular stages last year, because it shaded concert-goers from the intense sun. This year, the stage sits too close to puddles and mud to be useful.

In fact, even if Austin gets heavy rain with the potential for flash flooding, French says he’s unlikely to use the word “cancel” for Bat Fest. If storms push many acts back, he’s considering hosting a “mini” Bat Fest later this year with mostly local musicians, just so ticket holders get their money’s worth.

Twenty thousand people usually come to the event. This year, due to the potential for bad weather, French thinks those numbers will be slightly diminished.

The same number of bats — about 1.5 million of the Mexican free-tail variety — will still fly from under the Congress Avenue Bridge, but French says the rain affects them, too. They tend to come out a bit later on rainy days. If Austin sees early afternoon rain but dries out at night, the Bat Fest experience could be really pleasant.

Tickets are $25 at the gate, and entry is free for kids under eight with a parent.

The 26th Annual Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival is on Sunday, August 21st from 11 a.m.–5 p.m. at Fiesta Gardens. It started as a friendly competition between Austin and San Antonio, to see which city could make the “best” hot sauce. Entries have now extended throughout and beyond the state of Texas. There is live music, beer for sale, food trucks on site, hot sauce tasting and a Plucker’s eating contest. Sarah Wolf, Marketing Director at the Austin Chronicle, says this event will take place, rain or shine.

Usually this festival is facing the opposite problem: extreme heat. Sarah says, “Everyone always asks why do we do it in August, and it’s because the peppers are in season. So we want to give everyone, you know, the hottest, freshest hot sauces to try.”

Fiesta Gardens is owned by Austin Parks and Recreation. It’s a venue commonly used for events, so Sarah says event organizers are in constant communication to make sure the park remains in good shape. If there is the potential that the grounds will be damaged by hosting people after intense rain, it’s possible for Austin Parks and Rec to need to cancel the Hot Sauce Festival.

If the heavy rain continues during the day to the point of flash flooding, Sarah says, “Unfortunately, if big storms hit, it will be a full cancellation. You know, with an event like this, there are hundreds and hundreds of vendors involved. We have sponsors and hot sauces and bands and so much that we’re not just able to push it to the next weekend.”

On a positive note, if the rain holds off, it could be the most bearable Hot Sauce Festival weather in years. According to Sarah, “We’re calling this the ‘coolest’ hot sauce festival, ever. And I actually think it could be a good thing for it to be in the 80s and for it to be overcast, you know, you might get less of a sunburn this year.”

Entry to the festival is free with the donation of three nonperishable food items or $5 that go to benefit the Central Texas Food Bank. Last year, the Hot Sauce Festival raised enough money to help the Central Texas Food Bank provide 50,000 meals to people in need.

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