SXSW canceled due to coronavirus fears

Officials in Austin, Texas, dropped the news Friday.

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“Pet Sematary” Premiere - 2019 SXSW Conference and Festivals

A general view of the scene and marquee outside the ‘Pet Sematary’ Premiere during the 2019 SXSW Conference and Festivals at Paramount Theatre on March 16, 2019 in Austin, Texas. The festival is canceled this year.

Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for SXSW

AUSTIN, Texas — Officials in Austin, Texas, say South by Southwest arts and music festival has been canceled over virus fears.

The conference was canceled Friday, with officials calling it a medical- and data-driven decision.

SXSW, as it’s known, hadvowed to go on, despite recent developer conferences that were canceled by Facebook and Amazon.

In the past week, more major players at the festival, including Apple, Netflix, Twitter and Google, all officially announced their decision to withdraw from the festival citing concerns over the coronavirus.

The 10-day festival was set to begin March 13.

The festival issued an official statement on its website and via social media on Friday hinting that there might be an “online experience” in the making or possibly a rescheduling of the entire event.

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Statement from SXSW on the 2020 festival cancellation:

“The City of Austin has cancelled the March dates for SXSW and SXSW EDU. SXSW will faithfully follow the City’s directions.

We are devastated to share this news with you. “The show must go on” is in our DNA, and this is the first time in 34 years that the March event will not take place. We are now working through the ramifications of this unprecedented situation.

As recently as Wednesday, Austin Public Health stated that “there’s no evidence that closing SXSW or any other gatherings will make the community safer.” However, this situation evolved rapidly, and we honor and respect the City of Austin’s decision. We are committed to do our part to help protect our staff, attendees, and fellow Austinites.

We are exploring options to reschedule the event and are working to provide a virtual SXSW online experience as soon as possible for 2020 participants, starting with SXSW EDU. For our registrants, clients, and participants we will be in touch as soon as possible and will publish an FAQ.

We understand the gravity of the situation for all the creatives who utilize SXSW to accelerate their careers; for the global businesses; and for Austin and the hundreds of small businesses — venues, theatres, vendors, production companies, service industry staff, and other partners that rely so heavily on the increased business that SXSW attracts.

We will continue to work hard to bring you the unique events you love. Though it’s true that our March 2020 event will no longer take place in the way that we intended, we continue to strive toward our purpose — helping creative people achieve their goals.”

The conference this year had several high-profile speakers in place, including former presidential candidates Hillary Rodham Clinton, Beto O’Rourke and Andrew Yang and Steve Jobs’ widow Laurene Powell Jobs and rockersOzzy Osbourne, directorJudd Apatow and to Kim Kardashian West. Nearly 300,000 people attended in 2019. Osbourne announced on Thursday that he would no longer be attending.

Beyond the losses to the festival, Texas Monthly points out caterers, ride-hailing drivers, bartenders and servers, tech crew and security staff, and many other rely on SXSW, the biggest event of the year in Austin, to pay their bills. 

According to the Austin Statesman,public health officials had said that canceling the conference didn’t make sense, because many of the people who already made travel arrangements werelikely to come to Austin anyway even if it SXSW wascalled off.

But some festivalgoers were not too keen on attending the annual event. A change.org petition calling for the cancellation had more than 55,000 signatures as of late Friday afternoon.

Read more at usatoday.com; Contributing: Associated Press

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