AUSTIN (KXAN) – Thousands of festival goers flooded the Austin City Limits gates Friday afternoon. Among the crowd was Denise Cavness, 64, who hasn’t missed a day of ACL since its first year in 2002. 

Cavness was born in Austin and has worked at the Paramount Theatre for more than three decades. “I figure as long as I live here, I don’t really feel like it’s an option not to go,” she told KXAN. 

“It’s a party in the backyard,” she added. “One of the things about ACL is it’s always been a time where all your friends get together. Whether at a house beforehand or at the festival at a flagpole – everybody meets up [and] you might only see those people once a year.”

Growing up in Austin, Cavness naturally attended many live music events over the decades. She said it came as no surprise when stakeholders announced the ACL festival at the turn of the century. Like the city of Austin, Cavness said the festival has transformed a great deal since the early 2000’s.

“The numbers of people have grown, and I think [festival producers] have done an amazing job with growing with it,” Cavness said. 

“Back in the day, there was still traffic going up and down Barton Springs Rd. when we were at the festival,” she added. “That worked for a few years, but then it got so big that it felt like you were kind of being suffocated. When they opened that up, it allowed for more breathing room,” she said.

While the forecast for 2023 Weekend One of the festival has been ideal, Cavness said there have been iterations where the weather was more turbulent. Some years have seen extreme downpours — the rain so bad one occasion, a day of the festival had to be cancelled. There was also 2005, where temperatures were so hot and dry there was a “Dust Bowl” in Zilker park

Cavness said she remembers them all.

“There were a few years where I didn’t really feel like it,” she said. “I did have two bouts of cancer, and even during that time, I still found a way to go and sit.” She said she is healthy now.

Cavness said the music is always incredible, but her favorite memories involve spending time with friends with internationally beloved musicians providing a background soundtrack. 

“The friendship aspect of it [make]it so special,” she said. “The music was incredible as always but just being able to share laughter and watch people dance.” 

“As long as I live here, which I can’t imagine not [living here] – as long as I live here, I will go.”