F1 fans arrive, crews close downtown Austin roads for Fan Fest

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by ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE News and photojournalist ROBERT MCMURREY

Bio | Email | Follow: @AshleyG_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on November 14, 2012 at 7:09 PM

Updated Thursday, Nov 15 at 1:09 PM

AUSTIN -- The sound of clanking pipes will be the norm around downtown Austin for the next two days.

"Total mayhem," said Tony Cruz who works downtown.

All the noise isn't the sound of a new building going up, but rather stages for the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) Austin Fan Fest.

"I think Austin's in for a big kick, honestly," said COTA Event Coordinator Ridge Rees. "People are going to drive by, they're not going to know what's happening, but in two days, it's going to be completely transformed."

It will be completely transformed into a street festival with five stages to hold over 100 artists performing from Friday to Sunday. But with that transformation comes road closures.

The City closed 3rd and 4th Streets from Colorado Street to Congress Avenue Wednesday. More street closures will happen Thursday and Friday (Click here for a map of the street closures).

Around the construction, bars and restaurants in the city's Historic District are gearing up for South by Southwest-sized crowds. They will be a welcomed site at tenOak. The bar's business was cut in half seven months ago because of construction on Colorado Street. Colorado opened last week and general manager James Roller is stocking up to make sure the out-of-town guests feel right at home.

"All the local stuff of course, because when they come to town, whether they come to Texas or Montreal, they want the local stuff," said Roller. 

At Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA), Formula 1 fans are starting to arrive.

"Everybody sitting around us, yes. We had people who were working the race and people who were going to the race," said Tad Lewis who traveled to Austin from Illinois. 

A true fan, Lewis said he wasn't going to miss the chance to see the race in the United States.

"We go to Canada every year since they've left the U.S., and now that they're back in the U.S., this is our first trip to an F1 race," added Lewis. "I think it's a pretty big deal. I hope it catches on more."

To help all the out of towners get in on the action there is an information desk at the airport, complete with guides that speak multiple languages. Still, Wednesday's airport crowd won't compare to the number of people coming into Austin Thursday. Airport officials expect to see 36,000 travelers flying in and out of the city.

To get them around, Capital Metro is increasing the number of bus routes. They'll run from ABIA to downtown every 15 minutes opposed to every 30 minutes starting Thursday.

But Wednesday was the busiest day for the Four Seasons Hotel. Officials there said most of their guests checked in, and all of the hotel's 291 rooms are booked through the weekend.

To help everyone enjoy the Formula 1 and Austin Fan Fest activities, the City of Austin has created a series of interactive maps with route and event information. Click here to see the maps.

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