In the 1980s, college students discovered that they could spend spring break hovering around the margins of SXSW.
By the 1990s, their numbers had grown, at times outnumbering the registered participants at the side parties, lawn concerts and street festivities. In the 2000s, they were joined by high school students on break, traveling in packs for safety in numbers. More recently, even younger kids have been observed weaving in and out of foot traffic, drawn, like everyone else, to the surges of social energy. Some parents tote along their toddlers to the attendant music and craft fairs, hopefully armed with tiny foam ear plugs. Parents know best, I suppose. My job is merely to observe and report. Not judge. Nowadays, SXSW belongs as much to South Padre-class partiers and to families with dependents as to hardcore music, movie and tech fans. We have reached the age of the all-ages SXSW. Tuesday, basking in the glorious weather were visitors and locals filling up the streets and sidewalks along the East Sixth, West Sixth, Far East Sixth, Red River, Rainey, SoCo, Congress, Warehouse, Second and Convention districts. The city has responded wisely by closing down certain streets, posting officers on key corners and making sure everything flows freely. The wider sidewalks certainly help. (Commuting is not the only time Austinites move around their beloved city.) In between bands at Cheer Up Charlie’s micro-fest, I asked a couple what they planned to do during SXSW. They responded in the right spirit: "Anything we can."