Whether you choose to immerse yourself in all of the hoopla surrounding the Sundance Film Festival, or prefer to hide out in the mountains until all of the PIBs (People in Black) go away, there is no denying that the economic and cultural benefits of the famous event are wide ranging and long lasting.

the numbers alone, the festival is reputed to generate $80 million in statewide economic impact, $6.9 million in state and local tax revenues, and upwards of 1,700 jobs. In Park City, for many businesses, the uptick in activity provides a huge midseason boost in lodging, retail sales, transportation and entertainment.

But the benefits are more than monetary. Over the last 27 years, the Sundance Institute, which presents the festival, has expanded its mission to include year-round community outreach projects. Sundance offers free screenings in Park City throughout the year (including several summertime shows under the stars) and partners with local nonprofits to help with their fundraising efforts. It has also established a well-attended student screening program that gives Utah high schoolers an extraordinary opportunity to meet and learn from some of the world's top filmmakers.

The Sundance Institute has also developed a reputation for supporting risk-taking independent filmmakers and for nurturing global documentaries that celebrate and inspire social activism. Throughout the year it hosts intensive workshops to help elevate the art of filmmaking and refine the skills needed for effective storytelling.


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Those lofty attributes should be an additional source of pride for residents of the festival's home town.

Granted, the 10-day event requires a major shift from Park City's normal routine. And even though the event doesn't officially begin until Thursday, it has already begun causing a commotion. Familiar parking lots are roped off, delivery trucks are choking Main Street, favorite haunts are being turned into swanky this-means-not-you gifting suites, and weekend dinner reservations in the 84060 Zip code are out of the question. But there is also an excitement in the air and a sense that our little town, this week, is the coolest spot in the world.

Film tickets, while they may appear to be sold out, often become available after the first weekend and are handed out on a first-come, first-served basis. There are also a number of venues, including the New Frontier high-tech installations at The Yard, which are open to the public.

Sundance organizers have also increased opportunities for locals to purchase screening tickets during the festival and have established a popular tradition of screening the winning films for Park City and Salt Lake City residents after the festival ends.

As the curtain rises on the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, we urge local residents to venture out of their comfort zone, to accept a little inconvenience as a trade-off for a week and a half of new experiences, and to take advantage of some of the perks of being a Sundance citizen.

The festival will be rolling up and moving out before we know it, but it will leave a trail of prosperity and intriguing experiences