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ACL celebrates 15 rocking years

Matt Schultz of Cage the Elephant performs Oct. 8 at ACL Music Festival.
Photo by: Lara Dietrich Multimedia Editor

An idea that stemmed from a weekly, musical television program has turned into one of the biggest music festivals in the country.

Austin City Limits Festival began in 2002, but the concept grew out of the ACL television series that began in 1975. The TV show has hosted several of the biggest names in music across the entire genre spectrum such as the Eagles and The Weeknd.

ACL veterans can remember a time when the festival was one weekend in the Fall and hosted several thousand native Texans as bands from all over the world serenaded them with a variety of genres. The company that hosts the popular gathering, C-3, also puts on Lollapalooza in Chicago so the company backs its already legitimized credibility with a unforgettable show year after year.

Lindsey Carmichael, first time ACL attendee and Louisiana native, said she has always wanted to attend the festival but the price and growing number of people kept her away.

“Honestly, it has always been something I’ve wanted to do but every year there seems to be thousands more people and the price goes up,” Carmichael said. “I only came this year because I got the wristband as a gift. The crowd has been pretty intimidating but everyone has been so nice, it’s not what I’m used to at festivals.”

Leah Cromwell, Texas State alumna and ACL veteran, said she continues to come back to ACL because there are better acts as the years go by.

“I am surprised every year when the lineup comes out,” Cromwell said. “I remember being young and coming to ACL when it was more of a local Austin thing but now that it is known around the world I have the opportunity to see great artists and come together with such a variety of my friends.”

This year marked the 15th anniversary for ACL. The spectrum of artists ranged from rapper Kendrick Lamar to Texas legend Willie Nelson.

Whether dancing in the field with your significant other or jumping to the hard bass of DJs, every age group was able to find a place where they felt in sync.

In 2012, Austin’s city council unanimously approved the expansion of one weekend to two. This changed the game for the history of ACL.

The humble beginnings of a weekly PBS program quickly transformed into a mega-force. In its beginning stages thousands of people gathered to celebrate their love for music. No one could have imagined the number of people the festival brings in today.

Both weekends of ACL continuously sell out, drawing in crowds of approximately 75,000 people each weekend. From its start, ACL has brought a diverse crowd of age, race and sex.

“Yeah, of course it keeps growing and sometimes that is sad for us veterans but, how could you be upset about something like this?” Cromwell said. “I’m proud of my city for hosting such an incredible festival. I don’t have to fly to California or New York to see some of the best artists in the world.”

ACL continues to surprise its patrons with the artists, layout of the festival and the continual innovations they bring to the table ever year. One innovation that attendees are thankful for is the cashless option. Once you have received your wristband pass, you can register online with your credit or debit card so you can leave your wallet at home and your pass becomes your source of money.

Julie Stevenson, ACL veteran and mom of three, said she is thankful for Austin Kiddie Limits, which is a special section of the festival designed for children.

“My husband and I have come every year for as long as I can remember and now that my kids are a little older it is so incredibly convenient to have something like the kiddie area for them to have just as much (fun) as we do,” Stevens said.

As the years have gone by the popularity of ACL continues to increase but a few things are for sure, the good vibes, quality of artists and overall peaceful atmosphere of the festival remains the same.