Park City arts fest seen as having a ‘better vibe’ if it’s free
Park City officials and the leadership of the Kimball Art Center on Thursday discussed the idea of turning the annual arts festival on Main Street into a free event, but details need to be weighed in coming months before Park City Council endorses the plan.
Mayor Andy Beerman and the City Council addressed the issue but were not scheduled to make decisions. The Kimball Art Center wants to drop the $15 entry and increase the number of artist booths in an effort to recoup some of the revenues lost by eliminating the admission charge. The increase in the number of booths would require a larger footprint for the festival, though. The Kimball Art Center wants to extend the artist booths on 9th Street in the direction of Deer Valley Drive.
It appears City Hall staffers will return to the elected officials in midwinter for more talks. The event is in the summer, giving the sides time to reach an agreement.
Jory Macomber, the executive director of the Kimball Art Center, was one of the members of leadership to address the elected officials on Thursday, saying arts festivals that are free to attend have a “better vibe.” The events are “that much more magical” when they are free, he said.
A Kimball Art Center letter to City Hall prior to the meeting indicated the $15 admission charge is prohibitive to some people who want to attend and a frustration with others. The letter also said there are many businesses on Main Street that do not support the admission charge. There has been long-running concern among some businesses that sales drop during the arts festival as people browse the artist booths rather than enter the stores even though the businesses are just steps away from the booths.
City Councilor Lynn Ware Peek said the plans will reduce conflicts with Main Street businesses while Nann Worel, another city councilor, said dropping the admission charge could lead to a more diverse crowd.
Alison Kuhlow, the executive director of the Historic Park City Alliance, told the elected officials the arts festival is the only special event on Main Street that charges for admission. If the event was free, she said, festival-goers would have more money to spend at Main Street businesses. She said dropping the admission charge would lead to a “more inclusive” event.
The arts festival is one of the top events on the calendar in Park City, drawing large crowds for a weekend. The attendance in 2019 was calculated at more than 50,000. City Hall and the Kimball Art Center, though, disagree on the impact on attendance dropping the admission charge could have. The organizers say the attendance could rise modestly, perhaps by 10 percent, while City Hall staffers forecast the possibility of a much higher jump, possibly by 60 percent.
The municipal government says it would need to address services should the numbers increase by that much as a result of the event becoming free. A range of City Hall departments are involved, such as the police, transit, transportation planning and building.
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Someone in Old Town spray-painted the anti-Sundance Film Festival message during the opening days of the event.