The sights and sounds of South By Penn Field: CTA Austin’s favorite hyper-local event

By: Rachelle Simon
17 March 2017

It’s 7 p.m. and the sun is setting in the vibrant Texas sky. In front of you, there’s a tall water tower in silhouette. Birds fly lazily by and a cool breeze floats through the fresh spring air. Then…


An electric guitar cuts through your twilight reverie. Then an enthusiastic cheer from a crowd. Welcome to Austin during SXSW.

Every year during the world-famous week of music and events, South By Southwest, Penn Field — the business park CTA Austin (#CTAATX) is a part of — throws an event for its tenants. South By Penn Field (SXPF) is a “celebration of all things local by Austin-based businesses.” The event is organized and run by Fueld Films, a production company in the complex, and is held in an open-air pavilion at the front of the development.

“The setting is really charming with historic brick structures and the old water tower,” CTA AIT Sarah Holnbeck said of the pavilion. “It’s the perfect backdrop for a live band.”

A pair of old airplane wings hangs from the industrial metal canopy over the event space, referencing Penn Field’s history as a tiny training airfield during WWI. The wings are reflected in a shallow-but-expansive, rock-filled pond below. It’s a pretty cool space even when there isn’t a party going on. CTA AIT Eric Biffle commented, “I love that SXPF uses the outdoor pavilion for this event. It has the right amount of sunlight and open space. It’s awesome that we have something like this in our complex, just a 30-second walk from the office.”

2017 SXPF Participants

So, at 5 p.m. on Monday afternoon, I shut down my computer and headed over to the pavilion. Over the next three hours, hundreds of guests came through the check-in line where I was volunteering. Everyone gets a SXPF lanyard and badge — so official! Once attendees made their way into the event, there were things to munch and sip, all provided by other Penn Field businesses such as Deep Eddy Vodka, Dulce Vida Tequila, High Brew Coffee, Thirsty Planet, American Born Moonshine, and Rhythm Superfoods. Even Mellizoz, the famed taco truck, was in attendance, and sold delicious tacos until they ran out of food! Other PF occupants had booths set up and gave out fun free stuff so people could check out their products: t-shirts, sunglasses, even cleaning products!

“It’s really interesting that there’s such a diversified, high-energy group of neighbors around us,” CTA AIT Daniel Bachelier remarked. “Sometimes you forget other people are here in the complex and this event helps strengthen the community at Penn Field. It’s cool to see everyone come together, and to meet new people.” The event was even pet-friendly and there were several adorable puppies in attendance — including a bulldog who shared a wink with his photographer, CTA electrical engineer Puru Shah.

Each of the past five years, people have shown up on the first Monday of SXSW for an evening of fun — to mix and mingle with other Penn Field-ers, make some new friends, and listen to some great (read: LOUD) live music by local bands. This year, the entertainment was provided by Lincoln Durham and Jomo & The Possum Posse.

“It was sweet! We’re lucky to have a radio station and multiple liquor brands as neighbors. It was nice that it was sunny and we could all walk to the event together, ’cause it was right on site,” CTA mechanical engineer, and first-time event attendee, Hap Pfeil said. “I’ll definitely go again next year.”

SXPF is a popular event everyone looks forward to — a great opportunity to engage with the local community, and a Penn Field tradition!

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