Let’s take a walk down memory lane. Sure, you might be focused on planning for all the panels and parties at this year’s SXSW conference. (Or figuring out how to avoid downtown Austin completely.)
But you might find it instructive to look back on the highlights of last year’s SXSW Interactive to see just how surprising, entertaining, and yes, terrifying, the festival can get.
Here are six amazing things that happened during last year’s fest:
6. Celebrities galore.
It’s routine for the film and music portions of SXSW to attract celebrities like moths to a flame. But lately, you’re just as likely to spot a famous person talking about social media or apps on an Interactive panel.
Last year was no exception. Official keynote speakers and panelists included Star Wars director (and as I will always remember him, creator of the T.V. show Lost) J.J. Abrams. Also in Austin to speak at keynote sessions or on panels was Scandal’s Kerry Washington and model Ashley Graham.
And seen wandering the streets of Austin during Interactive last year was model Amber Rose.
5. Suddenly, a Ferris wheel appeared.
Every year at SXSW Interactive there’s often an over-the-top publicity stunt designed to draw attention to a tech product or a new TV show or movie.
Last year, to promote USA's hacker-themed TV show "Mr. Robot,” the show erected a small Ferris wheel at a parking lot on 4th and Congress downtown. Our own Omar Gallaga took a spin on the wheel with his Statesman Shots co-host Tolly Moseley.
4. St. Bernard dogs. In a motorcycle sidecar. Is there anything cuter?
Mophie knows what they are doing. The smartphone accessory company took advantage of our inability to not stop and coo at the sight of a fluffy, slobbery St. Bernard dog and made these pups a featured part of their publicity stunt.
For the second year in a row, Mophie came to SXSW and asked people to tweet photos of their phones as their battery juice ran low. A St. Bernard dog riding in a motorcycle sidecar would then come “rescue” you using Mophie’s technology.
The company sells smartphone cases that also double as battery chargers. So you get your phone charged, and you get to play with a St. Bernard while you wait. Mophie partnered with a Texas-based St. Bernard rescue group to pull off this popular publicity stunt.
3. The Force was with us.
In the middle of SXSW’s food trailer park was a life-sized TIE fighter replica from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Visitors were willing to stand in long lines for the chance to get their photos snapped with storm troopers.
Turns out that Star Wards and St. Bernard dogs are totally irresistible to the SXSW masses.
2. The president of the United States was an official speaker.
And so was his wife! (For the music portion.) For the first time in South by Southwest’s history a sitting U.S. president delivered a highly-anticipated keynote address. Obama was interviewed by Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith, and his remarks focused on ways that technology and innovation can rapidly solve some of the country’s problems.
While Obama was in town, he stopped by Torchy’s tacos and held a political fundraiser at Austin Music Hall.
1. Everyone feared a trafficpocalypse and stayed home.
Fearing a traffic jam of epic proportions because of Obama’s Friday SXSW keynote address, everyone in Austin just stayed home on the first day of SXSW. OK, not everyone, but traffic was so light that the feared trafficpocalypse never materialized.
This traffic-less day was so surprising and wonderful that Mayor Steve Adler tried to re-create it a few months later, but it didn’t have the same effect without SXSW and Obama to scare people into staying home.
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