The Park Record editorial, November 21-24, 2009 | ParkRecord.com

The Park Record editorial, November 21-24, 2009

Let's get serious about keeping Silly Market on Main Street

The Park City Council got an earful of public input Thursday, but the message was decidedly mixed. Proponents and opponents of the three-year-old Park Silly Sunday Market aired a wide variety of opinions, from enthusiastic support of the market to criticism that it drained traffic from established businesses.

Organizers of the outdoor summer market were hoping for a long-term commitment from the city. Over its short history, the weekly bazaar has grown substantially, requiring a bigger investment in time and infrastructure. The market founders, understandably, want assurances that the event will be allowed to continue before underwriting those costs.

The undertone of the hearing suggested that most of the merchants on Main Street want the event to remain but with some tweaking to distribute the crowds more equally along the street. Some, primarily upper-Main merchants, said the event had caused their Sunday business to decline. But a recent study of sales statistics gathered to measure the market’s effect on nearby businesses was inconclusive.

Event supporters say critics shouldn’t rush to blame the Silly Market for the decline in business. Other factors, they say, are more likely culprits, like growing competition from businesses at the Redstone Towne Center and the national economic downturn.

It must be tough for longtime Main Street shop owners to look past their empty doorways at the throngs of people shopping, dancing and eating at the Silly Market. But chasing the Silly Market and its thousands of fans away from Main Street would be a huge mistake. The playful atmosphere has done a marvelous job of drawing both locals and visitors. Now it is everyone’s job to lure them up the hill

The argument mirrors the debate that merchants had with the Kimball Art Center over the annual Art Festival. Businesses said festival attendees crowded out their customers so the Kimball began to look at moving the event to another part of town. When the Main Street merchants realized they could lose the Art Festival altogether, they relented and instead began to work closely with the Kimball to steer visitors toward local businesses. The art center reconfigured the artists’ booths to encourage more wandering back and forth and worked with gallery owners on Friday night stroll that included them as well.

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The Park Silly Sunday Market has been a rarity a growing phenomenon in an otherwise stagnant economy. The city should continue embrace it and the serious year-round merchants should be encouraged to get silly too. That could mean anything from setting up booths within the confines of the Silly Market (and its OK with us if they displace some of the out-of-town vendors) to suspending outdoor display rules on Sundays so upper Main Street can be outrageous too.

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