Waterloo Park announces lineup for free opening day festival, concert
After a decade of renovation, downtown Austin's Waterloo Park will reopen as an idyllic urban oasis and outdoor event space with a free family-friendly festival on Aug. 14.
The event kicks off with a ribbon cutting and land acknowledgement ceremony at 10 a.m. with speakers including Austin Mayor Steve Adler, City Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison and U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett.
Following the ceremony, afternoon programming in the park's new 5,000-capacity amphitheater will feature appearances from local arts groups and musicians. Ballet Folklorico de Austin, Mariachi Las Coronelas and the Huston-Tillotson University President's Jazz Ensemble are among the ensembles scheduled to perform. There will also be a birds of prey flight showcase and story time hosted by Think Bilingual. Uplifting rap artist and motivational speaker Saul Paul and outstanding Latinx rock trio the Tiarra Girls are also on the bill.
Tables from 20 community groups including Austin Rowing Center, Texas Parks and Wildlife and Austin Rowing Center will be scattered around the park. Austin Art from the Streets, a nonprofit that helps Austin artists experiencing homelessness sell their work, and Frida Friday ATX, a vendors market that centers diverse makers, will also have tables. The University of Texas' College of Natural Sciences will host a scavenger hunt for young park visitors. Several local food vendors will also be on site.
Spanning three blocks along the northern edge of the Red River Cultural District, the redesigned park boasts landscaped trails, a playground and indoor and outdoor lounge areas. According to history compiled by the park's nonprofit conservator, Waterloo Greenway, the neighborhood where the park is located, once hosted over 20 Black-owned businesses which stood "shoulder to shoulder with the many grocery stores, shops and restaurants run by Lebanese, German, Chinese, and Mexican-American neighbors." The community was decimated by segregation in the 1920s and 1930s. Later, a "city beautification" plan in the 1970s displaced low-income residents of color through eminent domain to create the park.
Honoring that history, the park's evening "Taste of Austin" concert, which kicks off at 7 p.m., features a diverse selection of top Austin talent. Artists on the bill include husband/wife hip-hop duo Riders Against the Storm, Austin empress of soul Tameca Jones and dreamy R&B singer Mélat. Latin Grammy-nominated pop singer Gina Chavez will also perform, and Stephanie Bergara, lead singer of the standout Selena cover act Bidi Bidi Banda, will play her first show spotlighting her original work as a solo artist. DJ Rapid Ric, former "RuPaul's Drag Race" contestant Cynthia Lee Fontaine and O.G. Austin rapper Bavu Blakes are also on the bill.
Events at the park will continue with a pair of ticketed concerts featuring hometown guitar hero Gary Clark Jr. on Aug. 20-21. The venue will also be used during the Red River Cultural District's free Hot Summer Nights festival on Aug. 26-29.
The event takes place in the shadow of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. According to Waterloo Greenway, event organizers will follow all local, state and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 health and safety guidelines. Per City of Austin and CDC recommendations, all guests are encouraged to wear face masks.