You wanna know Austin? It begins with festivals. This week begins the mother of all festivals in Austin, SXSW, which is really nuts.
But from this weekend until nearly Thanksgiving, there is a festival or a party or something nearly every weekend. There is the traditional craziness: Mardi Gras, Halloween, and New Year’s Eve on Sixth Street are great parties and shows. Mostly, though, they are festivals and parties made up by people who just decided that they needed a party. Like Carnival Brasilero,
It all began around 1975. At that time there were many Brazilian scholarship students at UT taking a six-week long intensive English course. Faced with the prospect of a February without CARNAVAL, they decided with their local friends to hold their own celebration: Carnaval ’75 took place in a small room at Austin’s Unitarian Church (which is into almost anything). The two hundred or so revelers had planted a seed.
Another example, on Sunday there is the annual Zilker Kite Festival. Why? Good weather, cool breezes – perfect for kites. In April comes Eeyore’s Birthday party, an annual event (now 42 years old) that began by some UT students in 1963 because it seemed like fun. Now it is a charitable fund-raiser.
Or take Spamarama, the salute to potted pork. It began thusly, according to David Arnsberger, “The Potentate of Potted Pork Parties”:
It was the early spring of 1976. Dick Terry and I were fraternizing one afternoon and Dick was bellyaching about how chili cook-offs had become so common-place.” I mean, anybody can cook chili.” Dick observed, “All you need is some kinda meat, some water, chili powder, comino, and maybe some cayenne, garlic, and/or onion, and you got yer basic chili. If you’re from north of the Red River, you might throw in some kinda beans, but basically, that’s about all it takes to make ‘chili.'” ” Yeah, not much of a challenge there, is it?” I responded.
“Now if someone could make SPAM