In wake of Vegas, fans see increased security at ACL Fest
AUSTIN (WFAA) -- Just days after 58 people were killed at a music festival in Las Vegas, thousands came to Texas from across the country for the Austin City Limits Music Festival. Fans walking into the venue acknowledged concerns about the very similar open-air concert festival but their determination to enjoy the celebration trumped any fears.
“I see why it would scare someone, but I’m going,” said Stephen Schirmer. “This is my third year straight.”
For the most part, the new security measures put in place for this year’s festival were done so before the attack in Las Vegas. The festival adopted a bag policy similar to what many other large events and stadiums have recently implemented. Bags were limited to 18 liters or smaller and fans were subject to an “airport style” security screening at the gate. Lines for fans with bags stretched further and took longer than the “no bag” line.
Jeremy Kinder came prepared with a CamelBak filled will all the items he felt were necessary to survive the beating sun for hours, but he did not mind the extra wait at the gate.
“Everyone is concerned about safety,” Kinder said. “You had the Vegas [shooting] and you want to make sure everyone has a good time.”
Austin Police did say they revisited their safety and security plan after the Sunday night shooting in Las Vegas. Among the adjustments were the addition of Texas DPS Troopers to provide assistance.
While ACL Fest was forced to make any adjustments quickly, the festival industry and other major events will have to rethink safety precautions going forward. Fred Burton, a former agent with the U.S. State Department and an expert on both security and terrorism, thinks the Vegas attack will be a game changer.
"Attacks like these have altered the course of history," Burton said, alluding to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the September 11 attacks as events which led significant changes in security protocol.
"Do we need personnel on rooftops like the Secret Service when the president moves? Those are the things you have to rethink when it comes to special event management."
Last year, upwards of 400,000 people attended ACL Fest over the course of two weekends. Ticket City said their ticket sales on the secondary market were down nearly 25 percent from 2016. Those numbers reflect sales before the Vegas shooting, but Ticket City followed the lead of ACL Fest by offering refunds to fans who had second thoughts after the attack.
“I think after any event as horrific and polarizing as Vegas, there will be hesitation in the entertainment industry and specifically live events,” said Ticket City spokesperson Shannon McKinley.
There was an increase in refund requests from Ticket City customers this year according to McKinley.
But on the opening day Friday, the masses of people walking down Barton Springs Road on a balmy 86 degree day did not seem to lack any excitement.
“We were going to come no matter what,” said Jen Lorman. “We do a girls’ trip every year. We bought tickets, we bought flights. It is not going to stop us from having fun.”
Gordy Quist, a member of the Band of Heathens, performed Friday at ACL Fest and believes if fans are sad or scared, then music might be the best medicine.
“One of the beautiful things about music is the healing power,” said Quist. “My hope is we can overcome the fear. I think love is more powerful than that.”