Taking advantage of the crowds at the Park City Arts Festival | ParkRecord.com

Taking advantage of the crowds at the Park City Arts Festival

by Andrew Kirk, OF THE RECORD STAFF

The Park City Arts Festival brings thousands of people to Main Street for three days, but ironically it isn’t a busy weekend for Main Street merchants. Robin Rankin is trying to change that.

Rankin, executive director of the Kimball Arts Center, said she’d like to see Park City’s festival get into the same league of events as South by Southwest or Austin City Limits in Austin, Texas. To do that, it will need to become a community festival, not just an arts festival.

"We’re in the top 10 now in the country, how do we get into the top three? How do we get people to get on a plane to come here?" she asked rhetorically. "In those communities they collaborate really, really well."

The Kimball Arts Center puts on a great festival and has for 40 years, she said, now it’s time to push attendees to stay the night, attend concerts with "Big Stars, Bright Nights" or the Deer Valley Music Festival, and buy meals here.

"Let’s double up on marketing efforts," she said. "Retailers understand it brings 40,000 people to Park City, but it’s not the best for sales because the stuff is outside."

Sandy Geldhof, program director for the Historic Main Street Business Alliance, said Rankin approached her with ideas and as a result, the business alliance is helping merchants offer discounts to festival goers during the event.

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"In this market everyone is open to creative ideas," Geldhof said.

Any storefront window displaying the festival logo is participating.

It was also agreed that fewer festival food vendors would be allowed on the street so attendees would visit Main Street restaurants. Festival hours were extended to keep patrons on the street as long as possible and hopefully prompt them to visit music venues like that at Harry O’s.

"It makes a lot of sense for us to all put our best face forward and make this a destination weekend," Rankin said. "We don’t want people to buy their lovely piece of art and then go home."

Veterans of the street may remember that collaboration wasn’t always the tune. Prior to about four or five years ago, the art booths were set up in such a way that they blocked entrances to businesses and attendees were channeled down the center of the street making it difficult to see, let alone visit, a merchant.

Geldhof said the redrafting of that layout has been a positive development and more is done every year to introduce attendees to what Main Street offers year round.

Kathy Higginson of the souvenir store Shirt Off My Back remembers those days but said the festival still isn’t a win for merchants.

"It’s better than it used to be, but it’s not a big weekend for us," she said. "It’s a great weekend in that everyone enjoys it everyone has a fun time."

That’s true of every merchant she personally knows, she said.

Julie Salmi, general manager at The Eating Establishment has had a different experience.

"We’re going to be slammed. We look forward to it every year," she said.

Having fewer food vendors this year is only going to make that better, Salmi added.

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