Educator Megan Thorne boarded a flight from Baltimore to Austin Friday morning.
She brought hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes for the plane, and was looking forward to attending South by Southwest EDU. After an uneventful flight, she landed in Austin and checked into her Airbnb.
Five hours later, Austin officials announced they were declaring a local disaster in light of the global spread of the new coronavirus, and canceling the festival. It was set to run Friday through March 22, with the precursor conference, the education-focused SXSW EDU, scheduled to begin Monday.
“I do think it’s a little crazy that they waited until the very last minute,” Thorne said. “I imagine there’s probably a lot of people in my boat who came early for EDU.”
The unprecedented cancellation of SXSW will likely frustrate hundreds of thousands of people connected to the festival — especially those like Thorne who had already traveled to Austin.
Thorne, an instructional designer in online education for Johns Hopkins University, said hours after the cancellation that she hadn’t received any official communication from the festival.
“If I had paid for this myself I’d be a lot more concerned,” she said, adding she’ll stick around for the weekend but is trying to get a flight back home.
But for many business owners and entrepreneurs, SXSW EDU offered an opportunity that’s hard to replace. Alexander Deeb, co-founder of a San Francisco-based education startup called Class Hook, said the company was going to be on exhibit at the festival for the first time and had spent months preparing merchandise and other marketing materials.