Live From (Your Laptop on) Congress Avenue, It's #TribFest2021!
The virtual Texas Tribune Festival kicks off on Sept. 20
Once again this year, political Austin's favorite fall schmoozefest will be a Zoomfest instead. The annual Texas Tribune Festival begins this coming Monday, Sept. 20, with six days of programming delving into policy and politics from the local to the global. TribFest 2021 (or #TribFest21) has the unusual task of competing this year with the real-life political festival of the third special session of the 87th Texas Legislature as it completes its still-mysterious redistricting drama (see facing) and as the state clashes with the Biden Justice Department over Texas' new draconian six-week abortion ban (read more).
These and other topics will likely have the Tribune's producers working until the last minute to keep the festival's prerecorded watch-on-demand programming current with events. Most of the few sessions being presented live are reserved for premium ticket holders, though some are set aside for Texas Tribune members or for students, who continue to receive steep discounts to attend – a holdover, in part, from TribFest's first days as an event held on the UT-Austin campus.
Then again, if you're investing in a TribFest ticket you might want to focus on topics you haven't seen in the news every day. Like, how are Joaquin and Julián Castro doing? Remember them? Are they running for something? Perhaps they will make 2022 news in their session premiering Sept. 23 at 8am. (Or, in Julián Castro's case, earlier at his VIP live session with Tribune CEO Evan Smith, Monday at 1pm.)
If all you care about is 2022 politics, you can start Monday bright and early at 9am (or on demand thereafter) with Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the colorful maybe-favorite in that state's upcoming U.S. Senate race. Later in the week you can catch one-on-ones with the two GOP candidates for Texas Attorney General who aren't the indicted incumbent: Land Commissioner George P. Bush (Sept. 25, noon) and former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman (Sept. 24, noon). Or you can hear from two national spinmeisters of yore, Obama sidekick Robert Gibbs and Bush family friend Karl Rove (Sept. 25, noon), because why not?
Now, if you seriously don't want to hear about the 2022 horse races, you can instead go into the paint with NBA Hall of Famer (and new Austinite) Chris Bosh and tennis legend (and longtime Austinite) Andy Roddick as they talk about "sports and politics and politics as sports" (Sept. 21, noon). Or hear from theologian Russell Moore, one of the leading thinkers of the religious right, about his surprising, but maybe inevitable, split from the Southern Baptist Convention (Sept. 22, 2pm). Or grapple with the global climate emergency with the help of three near-legendary Texas experts – Texas Southern's Robert Bullard, the Nature Conservancy's Katharine Hayhoe, and UT-Austin's Michael Webber (Sept. 22, 9am).
There will, of course, be plenty of programs featuring Texas lawmakers and leaders, and discussions of redistricting and reproductive rights and racism and COVID-19 and crime rates and everything else ripped from the headlines. You can discuss the day's programs and events in online networking sessions each day, or you can hang out on Congress Avenue near the Capitol with your laptop and it'll feel almost like normal. (You may even see Evan Smith walk by.)
Visit festival.texastribune.org to buy tickets, learn more about the program, and view sessions (via the Hopin platform) beginning Monday, Sept. 20.