Downtown Austin

This blog is written by one of 15 individuals attending the South By Southwest Conference in Austin with the intention to bring back ideas and to reimagine Richland County.

In the thick of March Madness, I'd like to give you a little taste of March Magic. As a total newbie to the SXSW experience, I can proudly say that it's only taken me a mere 36 hours to get my bearing here.

Chelsie Thompson

Chelsie Thompson

From my fresh eyes, here are a few things that were immediately noticeable about Austin:

• Getting run over by a pedicab is a real danger.

• The whole city smells like steak. So. Much. Steak. Why? No idea.

• Tiny houses abound, but not the HGTV kind - there are literally tiny (historical?) houses scattered throughout the downtown skyscrapers. I haven't yet had a chance to explore these, but they sure are cute.

• Virtually every single trash can, light post, bike rack, handrail, etc. is covered in plastic wrap. Either SXSW has a sticker problem, or Austin has stock in Saran Wrap.

• Tacos for days. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, fourth meal - you name it.

• The colors of the city are vibrant, and so are the people. There is an air of fun mixed with generosity, and so far I've only run into gracious hosts from the city.

As for SXSW itself, the FOMO is real. I was warned in advance that I shouldn't let the "fear of missing out" get the better of me, but I am constantly scrambling and rearranging to get to as many events as possible. Literally, I am currently looking at six sessions I would like to see tomorrow...that all happen at the same time. Hmmmm.

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Our time here has just begun, but already I've noticed a few themes emerging that I'm excited to continue exploring for our city:

• Open your mind, and open a world of possibility. This goes hand-in-hand with our charge in attending SXSW - come with an open mind to explore the innovation that is happening throughout the world and how we can apply it for the greater good in our region. If you release the boundaries that you've put in place in your mind, what could you achieve? Instead of seeing limits, see the potential.

• Do more, and do better. Our combined strengths are what give us power. The time to sit back and wait for someone else to fix the problems is over. The world is rife with possibility, and it's up to us to recognize and seize it.

• The importance of the purpose-driven life - putting aside our differences in the interest of the greater good. Take this as an example: in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, it took just 48 hours to bring five past presidents of mixed parties together for a commercial promoting the need for aid, and in ten days, the commercial raised over $48 million dollars.

As he relayed the importance of the purpose-driven life, the director of the commercial, Roy Spence, reflected on his years supporting his sister with spina bifida: "When she passed away after forty-nine years, I finally realized it: I thought I'd been pushing her, but really she'd been pushing me. For all those years, she had told me, 'You don't always have to have legs to fly.'"

If we always seek out the the limitations, that's all we'll find. It's time to shift our mindset, Mansfield.

Stay tuned and follow the progress via #SXSW419. And watch for more blogs at

This Solutions Journalism story is brought to you in part by the generous support of our Newsroom Partners: Spherion, Visiting Nurses Association, PR Machine Works, Nanogate/Jay Systems, DRM Productions, OhioHealth Mansfield Hospital, Richland Bank, Mechanics Bank, Area Agency on Aging, and many others. To learn more about Solutions Journalism at Richland Source click the "About Solutions Journalism."

South by Southwest Conference Blogger

Executive Director of the Renaissance Performing Arts Association, which presents and produces over 55 performances yearly at the historic theatre. She believes the arts and arts education are necessary drivers for personal, economic and social growth.