Ninety-thousand people, all being Silly on Main Street |

Ninety-thousand people, all being Silly on Main Street

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

The Park Silly Sunday Market, the open-air bazaar of crafts, food and entertainment held weekly on lower Main Street, drew close to 90,000 people during its 2009 run, one of the organizers said early in the week, a spectacular rise in popularity at a time when many Park City businesses are still struggling.

Kimberly Kuehn, a cofounder of the not-for-profit Silly Market, said on Monday the final figures will be compiled shortly, but she was confident that the number will be approximately 90,000. More people went to the Silly Market in 2009 than did in either of the event’s two previous years, she said, beating by a wide margin the 60,000 who were counted in 2008.

The Silly Market’s attendance climbed by 50 percent from 2008. She said the organizers had hoped to reach the 90,000 figure in its fifth season, putting the Silly Market two years ahead of the forecast.

"It means we’re attracting people to Main Street," she said, adding, "It means that we’re keeping Park City, historic Main Street, alive."

Last Sunday, the final Silly Market of the season, a large crowd milled about during the extended hours. The musicians jammed, as they do each week, and the entertainment included a stilt walker and a trapeze artist who performed while hanging from the pedestrian bridge spanning lower Main Street. An expert with the rope, calling himself Lefty Outlaw, wowed the crowd with his lassoing skills. There was limited elbow room on lower Main Street as the big crowd stopped at the artisan booths and dined at the food stands.

Brian Kahn, the cofounder of Locals Have More Fun, a brand of logo wear that embodies the outdoor lifestyle of Park City, said the company did well during its six Sundays at the Silly Market, the second full year the company participated. The sales were "fantastic," he said, though bad weather earlier in the summer cut into business. Kahn wants to return in 2010.

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"It’s not just your average fair. You hear the music. You have other entertainment," he said, describing that the Silly Market provides access to big crowds, the event is managed well and, in 2009, "we can tell it’s busy."

But just off the Silly Market grounds, Stephen Cornelius, an artist who sells his works on Sundays in a small grassy space steps from the festivities, said his sales were off by 90 percent this year. He does not have official ties to the Silly Market, but his sales on Sundays rely on the crowds the event brings.

"For every 1,000 people who come, five or six are looking for fine art," he said, describing the crowds as searching for "comfort food." "There’s people, but they’re not buying."

The apparent record-setting year for the Silly Market comes at a key point in the event’s existence, with City Hall for the first time conducting a study of the market’s economic effects on Main Street. City officials have hired a consultant to crunch the numbers, and the data is expected to show how widespread the benefits of the Silly Market are. The consultant report is due later in the year.

There have been complaints from merchants and restaurants on the upper stretch of Main Street that their Sunday sales have dwindled during the Silly Market. They say the Silly Market has siphoned the crowds to the lower part of the street, and few people heading to the market wander up the street, slicing sales on important weekend days.

Silly Market organizers are confident that the upcoming report will show that the event has infused business onto Main Street, saying that they have taken steps to ensure the sales spread up the street. The market, as an example, has altered its hours in an effort to keep people on Main Street until dinnertime.

"I’ve been hearing a lot of feedback from locals — that they’ve come back to Main Street on Sundays because of the Park Silly Sunday Market," Kuehn said.