AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Halloween season has many of the usual events: haunted houses, costume parties, ghost tours. But in a large city like Austin, there can be too many to track.
Leila Sales and Brian Pennington started tracking Austin-area Halloween events in 2019, a year after the couple moved to the city. The list took a pandemic pause in 2020 and 2021 and returned for 2022 and 2023.
“I have always loved Halloween; I feel like what we do with the newsletter and what we’re interested in is creative, artsy, homegrown, DIY sort of stuff. And I feel like Halloween is the perfect holiday for that,” Sales said.
The list started as a way for the couple to promote their local events newsletter Lite + Brite Events.
“We were trying to find at the time ways to help grow the newsletter,” Pennington said. “[The spreadsheet] made sense on Reddit, because there’s this great community of Austinites there that we want to reach. I think we grew [subscribers] like 100% the first time we did it.”
The full spreadsheet of 100+ events can be viewed here.
As for the couple’s favorites? Sales said she’s excited for “Flood of Spirits” at The Driskill, an immersive theater experience, and Pennington is looking forward to the “Grave Rave.”
Is Austin not ‘weird’ now, or is it you?
According to their website, the Lite + Brite newsletter does “not list normal concerts, normal movie showtimes, normal happy hours, normal trivia nights, etc.” and instead focuses on quirkier events: “art parties, pig beauty pageants, site-specific performances, miniature parades, events with words like ‘menagerie’ in the title, Harry Potter parodies, anything referencing Kate Bush, etc.”
But in a growing and changing city, space and cost are detrimental to weirdness.
“We do a bi-monthly event at West China Tea House, and with the I-35 expansion, they are probably going to have to move. Is there going to be another place that they can afford? I don’t know, I hope so,” Sales said. “The more expensive it is to run a space or a venue, the less experimental you can afford to be in your programming.”
The couple is still positive about the persistence of “weird” Austin despite the changes.
“You just have to know where to look, and if you have the sense of like, ‘my city isn’t cool anymore,’ often what that means is just you’re not cool anymore,” Sales said.
“Change is a constant. If you are not changing as the environment around you changes, you perceive it as like, ‘oh, well, everything I liked is gone,'” Pennington said, “And that might be true, but there might be new things taking the place of the things that you miss. If you’re not open to finding those things, or if you’re not able to find those things, then it creates this perception that Austin as a whole has changed.”