“The weather cannot stop Jah!” Flamingo Cantina owner Angela Tharp, who books Austin Reggae Fest, said Friday morning when asked if the event had a rain plan. Throughout the early part of the day skies were dark, but rains held off and festival gates opened on time at 3:30 p.m.
By the time local reggae outfit Don Chani took the stage an hour later a sizable crowd was starting to fill in, setting up chairs and blankets on the lawn. As the band spun out a series of feel good skankin’ grooves a light rain began to fall. Umbrellas went up across the field but the band continued to play.
Then the storms rolled in. With rumbling thunder and flashes of light in the distance and at roughly 5:15 p.m. an announcer came to the stage and urged people to take cover under the bridge or across the street at the Palmer Auditorium parking garage. “It’s going to get rough,” he said.
Security officials at the gates called it a voluntary evacuation but a few minutes later the festival announced via social media they were temporarily suspending the festival.
By 6:45 p.m. Rain had slowed to a trickle and the festival announced plans to reopen at 7:30 on Twitter.
As stray streaks of sunset scattered pink hues across breaking clouds, the gates reopened (with a few soggy sections of the field roped off) and dancehall champ Yellowman took the stage. Unfortunately, shortly after he began his spirited set the rain returned. A spatter rapidly accelerated to a downpour and less than an hour after reopening the festival was forced to cancel for the night at roughly 8:15.
“Unfortunately, rain has forced us to cancel the remainder of the show on April 17. Gates open at noon on April 18,” the festival announced via Twitter.