Downtown businesses prepare for international Grand Prix guests


by ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE News and photojournalist MICHAEL MOORE

Bio | Email | Follow: @AshleyG_KVUE

Posted on November 15, 2012 at 8:29 PM

Updated Thursday, Nov 15 at 8:41 PM

AUSTIN -- Downtown Austin is becoming the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) Austin Fan Fest, the free festival full of F1 fun. And the businesses around downtown are embracing the theme. From race cars on the windows to mannequins holding checkered flags, everyone is in the Grand Prix spirit.

"Certainly, you know, they're going to make money. I know they are excited about that but I think it goes beyond that because it has to do also with the character and nature of Austin," said Austin City Manager Marc Ott. "We are an embracing, kind of receptive, welcoming people."

And the people of Austin have a lot of welcoming to do. There are guests from all over the country and the world visiting the Capitol city.

Embracing all of the different cultures is the goal of Restaurant Jezebel owner and chef Parind Vora.

"I've been to Formula One races in Europe when I lived there and so definitely the crowd is immense and it's all over the world," said Vora. 

Vora's exclusive restaurant of just eight tables caters to high end clients. And this weekend he's expanding his number of foreign language speaking staff to include translators who speak German, Indian, Portuguese, even Chinese.

"It's kind of like, you know, when my mom came to visit," said Vora, "I changed a few things to make it easier for her at the restaurant and at the house, so we should do that for all the guests."

Those translators will also be at the restaurant's casual bar, Bar Mirabeau, just in time for an open event on Saturday with former racing champion Mario Andretti.

"We're actually featuring Andretti wines from Mario Andretti and we're having a happy hour where he's going to, you know, come by," Vora said. 

As crews continue to put the finishing touches on the downtown F1 makeover, visitors said they are starting to feel right at home, thanks to some Austin hospitality.

"Friendly people," said Andrew Panayrotou who is visiting Austin from England for the first time. "Everyone's getting along."

It's also Issac Burkes first time in Austin. He's from Los Angeles.

"Well I was a little apprehensive about what I would find here in Austin but I've heard great things about the music scene, great things about the restaurants and there's ton of both. So I'm very, very surprised and very happy."

So is Alex Kaliakin who is visiting from California.

"Great southern hospitality, Texas hospitality. Great food, lots of bars. What could be better?"

All of the stages for the Fan Fest will be set up by Friday. The first concert starts at 6:30 pm. Click here for more information on Fan Fest.

The city has also created an interactive map to help everyone get around downtown. Click here to see the map.