Volunteering for SXSW

It’s Friday! Excitement!

Of course, I’m always excited for Friday, but I’m especially excited this week. Reason being- I’m EXHAUSTED. SXSW will do that to you!

If you’re not familiar, SXSW is a set of interactive, film and music festivals and conferences held in Austin every March. There are other components too- gaming, comedy, style, etc. It’s a BIG deal, and the event contributes more than $160 million to Austin’s economy annually.

When I moved here, I promised myself that I’d get involved with SXSW every year, at least in some capacity, and so far I’ve kept true to that. This was my second year volunteering and although it’s quite a commitment, it’s absolutely worth it.

Stateside Theater, night and day.

Stateside Theater, night and day.

Austinites, if you’re interested in volunteering for SXSW, DO it. I really can’t recommend it enough. Again, I’m only two years in and don’t profess to be an expert on the topic, but I’ll share a bit about my experience with it.


The badge. The chief perk of volunteering for SXSW? You earn a badge. Now, there are plenty of events open to the larger public during SXSW, but most of the main attractions- panels, film screenings, concerts, parties- are badge-only events. There are several types of badges available- Interactive, Film, Music, Gold (Interactive and Film) and Platinum (Interactive, Film and Music). You can earn any kind of badge, depending on how much time you invest and the type of work you do.

Behind the scenes action. Both years, I’ve worked as a production volunteer on the Stateside film venue crew (I talk about the different kinds of volunteer positions below). We’re responsible for seating film screenings, managing lines outside the theaters, communicating with other venues about capacity and availability, and accepting ballots, among other things. I’m hardly a film buff, but I really enjoy the film component of SXSW. We’re often welcome to sit in on screenings when there are open seats, and you see a lot of celebrities. This year, Mud, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone and Sound City all premiered next door at the Paramount, so I spotted Steve Carell, Jim Carrey, Matthew McConaughey and Dave Grohl while working shifts.

Pretty hard to see, but from left to right that's Steve Carell, Dave Grohl and Matthew McConaughey

Pretty hard to see, but from left to right that’s Steve Carell, Dave Grohl and Matthew McConaughey

Networking. I don’t care what line of work you’re in, you’ll meet interesting people during SXSW. This might be the best part really. I love getting to know the other volunteers and chatting with people I wouldn’t have met under other circumstances.

Tech Cocktail event at Stage on 6th.

Tech Cocktail event at Stage on 6th.

Buzz and free stuff. Austin really comes alive during SXSW, and it’s just a lot of fun to be downtown at the center of it all. Volunteering keeps you informed about which events are getting a lot of buzz and traffic. You won’t waste time waiting in line for a film that’s gotten a poor response, and you’ll know where to find free booze and food.

T-shirts. Every volunteer receives two. It’s not a huge perk, of course, but still worth mentioning. Gap sponsored the T-shirts this year, so they were really soft and comfortable. I’m sure I’ll wear mine for years to come.

Loved this year's design!

Loved this year’s design!


Time. Volunteering for SXSW is a BIG time commitment, no matter what role you take on. FYI, there are two different categories of volunteers- conference and production. The main differences between the two are how your time/hours are tallied and the perks available. Conference volunteers work hours toward their perk, and production volunteers work a set number of shifts. Be prepared to invest at least 30-80 hours of your time. Both years, I ended up putting in around 40-50 hours to earn my perk of choice, a Gold Badge.

Traffic and parking. I’m listing traffic as a con, but it really hasn’t been a big problem for me personally. I live south of downtown, so driving north at the hours of my shifts hasn’t been bad at all. I’ve heard different things from those making the trip from up north. Parking, like traffic, doesn’t necessarily have to be an issue. If you’re willing to walk, there is ample free parking south of the river around the Palmer Center and in neighborhoods off South Lamar and Zilker Park. I normally park near the Palmer and can be at the Stateside Theater after a 20 minute (brisk) walk. I’m sure there are plenty of other free places to park- ask around! Many people bike in too. Just be sure to bring a good lock.

Really, those are the only cons I can think of! I’ve had a wonderful experience both years and strongly recommend getting involved.


Braving Antique Weekend in Warrenton

Remember this picture?

SUDS letters in washroom

I still owe you the scoop on SUDS!

A few weeks ago, my Aunt Nancy invited me to join her for a day of treasure hunting in Warrenton during Antique Weekend. I’m still pretty new to the whole Texas antique scene, but I’d heard about Antique Weekend before. It’s a BIG  deal. Twice a year (typically the first week of October and the first week of April), Warrenton and several other towns between Houston and Austin host these sprawling fairs, welcoming thousands of antique dealers. Round Top seems to be the center of the action, but Warrenton, Shelby, Fayetteville, Oldenburg, Rutersville and Carmine have become big hubs too.

On Saturday morning, our group of 6 (my aunt and uncle, my cousin, his girlfriend, a family friend and myself) met in La Grange to grab a cup of coffee and consolidate cars. By 9:30 we were patiently sitting in traffic just outside Warrenton.

Nancy warned me about the size of it all, but I was still completely overwhelmed when we arrived. Vendors tents and trailers stretched at least a couple miles in all directions, selling anything and everything you can imagine. I think you could walk for 5 days and still not see it all.

rows of vendor booths at outdoor junk fair in warrenton

pink trailer at warrenton antique and junk fair

Warrenton antique fair crowds

Having just moved into our house the day before, I was excited to zone out, wander and relax my brain for a bit. I think that was probably the best mindset I could have had. If I’d arrived with a specific mission (example- find a bedroom dresser) in mind, I think I would have felt too daunted to even leave the car.

We grabbed breakfast tacos, agreed on a meeting point for lunch, and parted ways into a sea of tents.

fun letters and decor at warrenton junk fair

letters and signs at warrenton junk fair

Almost immediately, we came upon the spot where Nancy found a bunch of old neon letters during her visit last spring. She bought five at that time to spell out her name, and she has them displayed in her office.

Her boss really likes how they look, so he asked her to bring back letters for the agency this time. I think we spent a good hour there, digging around for the perfect “E”, brainstorming words and trying out different combinations.

I really wanted to get some for the house, but I wasn’t sure which room to put them in. I considered ZZZ, SLEEPY and DREAM for the guest bedroom before deciding that Stephen might not be as crazy about them as I was. SUDS seemed like a good compromise, because I knew he wouldn’t have a strong opinion about laundry room decor. There’s a lot of unused shelf space in there, and I thought the bright colors would liven up an otherwise boring room.

Decisions made, we paid for our letters (thank you again for the wonderful housewarming gift, Nancy!) and continued on our way.

When I say that you can buy anything at this fair, I mean it. Even rabbit skulls…

animal skulls at junk fair

warrenton antique fair junk cars

texas condom boxes

antiques at warrenton texas show

antique furniture at the warrenton antique fair

Before too much longer, it was time to head home.

I’m already looking forward to going back in the spring, when I have a better idea of what we still need for the house. I recommend you check it out too. Bring plenty of water, snacks and sunscreen. A handheld GPS unit and wagon aren’t bad ideas either.

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