Pecan Street Festival celebrates 30 Years

Sylvia Butanda

Hundreds of vendors, artists and events and thousands of people from Central Texas took over Sixth Street on Saturday and Sunday for the 30th year of Pecan Street Festival.

The LEGO Experience Tour, the transformation of Trinity Street into Magic Street featuring Doc Seaton’s Magic Sideshow and the Wahl “Face the Day Tour” with free facial hair trims and tips were all new attractions featured at this year’s festival.

Dozens of local food vendors gave festival goers a variety of food options to choose from and artisans displayed homemade crafts ranging from clothes to candles and household items.

“It brings all the different cultures of the city of Austin together,” said Marc Roppolo, owner of Roppolo’s Pizzeria. “It allows everyone to mix and really enjoy the city.”

Roppolo said this year’s festival was the most successful in seven years because it didn’t conflict with Austin City Limits or a UT football game.

Distinguished artist Amado M. Peña Jr., created the first Pecan Street Festival poster in 1978 and has attended the bi-annual festival more than 50 times. This year’s poster and T-shirt featured his artwork “Mestizo Series: I Walk in Beauty.”

“There’s nothing like Pecan Street anywhere in the country that I have experienced,” Peña said. “This is one of those lasting traditions that I don’t think is ever going to change.”

Festival goers enjoyed live music from more than 45 local bands on three stages. Sunday’s featured musician was Nakia, a well-known contender on NBC’s singing competition “The Voice.”

In the past, the event has attracted more than 300,000 people, generating an annual economic impact of approximately $43 million, according to the festival’s website.

The Old Pecan Street Association rehabilitated the neighborhood by building businesses back in the 1970s and started the festival as a way to help clean up the streets and raise money, said festival spokeswoman Tamara Ford.

A tradition that remains today is the donation of booth rental profits to the city. Contributions from past festivals have gone towards the purchase of Christmas lights, art and books for local schools and municipal initiatives such as the I-35 Makeover Project, according to the festival’s website.

This year, festival goers were encouraged to donate money to the Bastrop Wildfire Relief Fund at a festival donation tent.