Main Street bustles
Jeffrey Howrey sat outside the Main Street post office Monday afternoon, his guitar in its case.
A musician who goes by the name ‘Dr. Bob,’ Howrey was promoting gigs on Monday and Saturday at the Spur, where he was scheduled to perform during what is known as the ‘Radical Rat Songwriters Festival.’
But Howrey, who performs in Park City all year, said Monday that, with the city bustling with musicians, he is looking for his niche.
"I feel kind of lost in the shuffle. There’s so much. It’s hard to get any attention," he said, acknowledging that it is good for Park City to be so busy.
Howrey was one of thousands of people on Main Street Monday and the numbers appeared to be even larger over the first weekend of the Sundance Film Festival. The week is typically the busiest of the year in Park City, with people descending on the city for movies, partying and celebrity gawking.
Reports on Monday indicated that the 2006 edition of film-festival week is one of the biggest ever, with businesses on Main Street seeing record sales and the number of people riding buses outpacing past years.
"We had the busiest day we ever had besides during the Olympics," said Tana Toly, from the Main Street pizza shop Red Banjo, talking about Saturday. "It’s a little fun. It’s a little stressful."
Toly said, on Saturday, people waited an hour to be seated and on Monday, she said, she encountered three rude people, including one who walked out after it took more than 15 minutes to cook a Canadian bacon and pineapple pizza.
Main Street restaurants are always packed during Sundance but the crowds this year also seem to be stopping into retailers.
Lori Harris, the owner of Mary Jane’s, a woman’s store on Main Street, and the manager of the men’s store Chester’s Blacksmith Shop, said sales went "amazingly well" over the opening weekend.
She said, last year, the numbers at Mary Jane’s were down during Sundance but Friday and Saturday this year were the two best days the store has ever had. She said sales were about 30 percent over the store’s best day in 2005.
Harris credits the sales to the store’s merchandise, including boots, which she said are selling well. A woman from Los Angeles was especially complimentary, Harris said.
"This is like the best of all the L.A. boutiques in one place," the woman told her, Harris said.
Alison Butz, who directs special events for City Hall, said the government had received few complaints about the festival through Monday afternoon but some people were worried about festival-goers parking nearby the Racquet Club, where festival parking is not allowed.
Butz said that ridership on city buses on Saturday was 32,000, up from 21,000 in 2005. On Friday, the number of riders reached 29,000, up from the 19,000 tallied on the first Friday of the festival in 2005, she said.
People are having fun up and down Main Street and businesses are joining in. At T-shirt shop Dugins West, on display were black T-shirts emblazoned with Sundance-influenced messages, like ‘Looking for funding,’ ‘Aspiring sellout’ and ‘Writer/director/producer/waiter.’
Park City Police Department Lt. Phil Kirk described the opening weekend as having "minor problems here and there." He said people have been unlawfully parking on Marsac Avenue and at the bottom of Hillside Avenue and that cars have been towed from Marsac Avenue.
He said animal-rights activists demonstrated on Main Street but the event did not cause problems.
"Sundance is keeping us hopping," Kirk said.
Kirk said there have been loud parties, which are common during Sundance, that officers have arrested people on drunken-driving and public-intoxication charges and there have been a few assaults reported to the police.
"We’ve got a lot of people out at night," Kirk said.
Decked out in a black leather jacket, a black shirt, jeans and boots and wearing sunglasses, Howrey said he is happy with the performances he has lined up for Sundance, especially with big-name acts occupying space that local musicians normally haunt.
"You’re just lucky to be playing anywhere," he said. "A lot of the venues aren’t open."
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The developer pursuing a major project at the Park City Mountain Resort base area intends to incorporate a paid-parking system as a key measure in the efforts to reduce the amount of traffic the new lodging and commercial spaces would generate.