The big race weekend is here, like it or not. Like other big corporate funded festivals, this one feels “top down” rather than grassroots. That makes many Austinites uncomfortable. The kneejerk reaction, which I have observed for decades now, is “They’re trying to turn Austin into another Dallas.”
Which is true to some extent. But it’s also true that corporate investment and high visibility events have added to Austin’s rep in the world, as well as adding to the local economy. And the beat goes on.
But the most interesting aspect of the F1 hooplah, and the increasing presence of large corporate investment in Austin is the international flavor. It’s not just American conglomerates coming into our slacker village anymore. There is an increasingly international culture here which includes businesses, employees, students, artists, and just people raising families and living their lives. It’s a messy, crowded, increasingly urban environment we are seeing, fraught with planning problems. But it’s also exciting and full of economic and cultural potential.
As a musician, and particularly as a musician involved in world music and themes of cultural exchange, I see many good things coming from international corporate investment in Austin. F1 is part of that. Of course there are undesirable parts as well – greedy opportunists, corporate pimps working the short game and damaging our small businesses, environment, and unique Austin identity – but they have always been there. Those are not the only forces at work. There are farsighted people at work, individuals, cultural groups, and businesses committed to making Austin an international city of the 21st century.