The Pecan Street Festival gives Austinites a different historical view of Sixth Street

Celesia Smith

We all know about Dirty Sixth, W 6th St., and E 6th St., but what about Pecan?

Before Dirty, East and West, there was only Pecan. The Pecan Street Festival is a nod to what Sixth Street was before it was Sixth Street. The festival takes place in Historic Sixth Street District, locally known as E 6th St., between Brazos street (to the west) and I-35 (to the east). From Sept. 22 to Sept. 23, Historic Sixth Street is coming to life for the 79th time.

Debbie Russell, executive director of Pecan Street Association, the non-profit behind the event, calls the festival an opportunity for Austinites to learn about the city’s history in a family-friendly setting.

“(The Pecan Street Festival has) always been about preserving and celebrating the history of downtown, E Sixth St., Pecan Street and its rich cultural and social scene,” Russell said. “Families get to come gather and walk the downtown streets together, enjoying the best Austin and central Texas has to offer.”

As Austin’s largest non-profit operated festival and the largest art festival in Central Texas, the Pecan Street Festival brings over 200,000 people to Historic Sixth to listen to music, appreciate local art and explore a wide array of foods. This year, the festival boasts a variety of vendors that offer everything from hand-blown glass to printmaking.

The scheduled art and music scene is just as diverse, featuring Chris Rogers, Nakia and The Blues Grifters, and many more to perform and showcase on one of the three stages at the venue. Other activities planned for this year include child-friendly rides, a petting zoo, face painting and street magicians.

Through the Pecan Street Association, festival proceeds are donated to various organizations around Austin. The festival is free to attend in order to promote a sense of community within the whole city. A percentage of the profit made from the vendors and sponsored activities goes towards various community projects within the downtown area, including historical restorations and youth enrichment programs.

“What really brought me back (to the festival each year) was the music and the outdoor atmosphere,” said Paul Martinez, a UT alumnus who discovered the festival as a college student and has returned several times over the years. “Just being able to be outside and around all the different music they had and all of the vendors and artisans was a great experience.”

Business honors sophomore Lexi Thorson said she is excited about the community aspect of the festival. Having studied abroad in Argentina this summer, Thorson said she visited various street fair markets and hopes the Pecan Street Festival will give off a similar vibe.

“Hopefully (there will be) lots of food and unique arts and crafts that you can’t find anywhere else,” Thorson said. “I love that there are different vendors and I think it’s a great addition to the Austin community.”

Russell said that what sets the Pecan Street Association and the Pecan Street Festival apart is the board of volunteers who work tirelessly to unite the Austin community and celebrate its unique history.

“What makes us special is our passion for Austin,” Russell said. “We are not content to rest on our laurels of its legacy. While we are dedicated to preserving the old, we strive to appropriately incorporate the new.”