Twice a year, the Old Pecan Street Festival takes over Sixth Street between Interstate 35 and Brazos Street in downtown Austin with musical stages, rides, a petting zoo and food booths spilling over onto multiple cross streets.
Focus of Festival
The free arts and crafts festival, which has been produced by the Pecan Street Merchants Association for more than three decades, is the largest such event held in Austin. Artisans from across the United States exhibit items such as paintings, sculptures, woodwork, candles, jewelry, cowboy hats and other decorative pieces.
The Old Pecan Street Festival is also known for its live music shows, including many by emerging Austin artists, performed on three stages.
According to the festival's organizers, the biannual event draws more than 300,000 people and generates a $43 million boost to Austin's economy.
The Pecan Street Merchants Association also selects several area nonprofits to benefit from the festival's proceeds. For spring 2011, those nonprofits are: Oak Springs Elementary School in East Austin, the LIVESTRONG Foundation (founded by Austinite and world-renowned cyclist Lance Armstrong), the Knights of Columbus and the Austin Blues Society.
Significance of Festival's Name
Edwin Waller, who was Austin's first mayor, was responsible for laying out the city's street grid. The streets that ran north-south were named after Texas rivers, and the streets that ran east-west were named after trees. Later in the city's history, the tree names gave way to numbered streets, and Pecan Street became Sixth Street, which still has many buildings dating back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Old Pecan Street Festival is a nod to that part of Austin's history.
Because of thousands of people descend on the downtown area for the festival, organizers encourage attendees to use public transportation rather than drive. Capital Metro, the transit agency that serves Austin will provide bus service as well as a special Saturday service on the MetroRail commuter train line from 11:20 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.