Park City Kimball Arts Festival canceled due to COVID-19 concerns

White tents containing art of all mediums stretched from the top of Main Street to the bottom at the Park City Kimball Arts Festival on Aug. 4, 2018.
James Hoyt/Park Record

Park City Kimball Arts Festival organizers on Thursday canceled the event based on concerns about the continued spread of the novel coronavirus, making the decision even as the organization was locked in talks with City Hall about holding the festival in a manner designed to protect public health.

The Kimball Art Center released a one-page prepared statement describing uncertainty regarding regulations designed to combat the sickness and concerns about the health of the artists and the crowd.

“We were willing to make significant changes and scale back the event dramatically to ensure health and safety while also supporting artists, local businesses, and boosting our economy,” Dan Lemaitre, the chairman of the Kimball Art Center board of directors, said in the statement. “In the end though, the ability to ensure and enforce social distancing and other safety measures among thousands of art lovers was too complicated.”

Lemaitre said the Kimball Art Center is considering “a variety of creative programming, including an online platform, to support artists and contribute to Park City’s economic recovery.” Details will be released shortly.

The event, which was to be the 51st edition, was scheduled from July 31 until Aug. 2 along Main Street. The arts festival is one of Park City’s top special events, drawing some of the largest three-day crowds of the year to browse artist booths, listen to live music and enjoy other arts-related activities. Upward of 50,000 usually attend.

The cancellation was announced a week after an important meeting between the Kimball Art Center leadership and the Park City Council as the organizers outlined plans for a scaled-back event that, according to the Kimball Art Center side, could have been held in a socially distant manner. Some of the elected officials, though, expressed concerns.

The organizers outlined measures like significantly limiting the crowd size at any one time and greatly reducing the number of artists booths. Lemaitre at the recent meeting described the possibility of holding a “truncated version” of the event and that the festival would help Park City with the economic recovery.

There were elected officials at the recent meeting who remained worried about holding an event of the scale of the arts festival even with the measures outlined by the Kimball Art Center. One of the members of the City Council, Steve Joyce, said at the meeting he did not want to jeopardize the ski season should the virus spread in the months before. Becca Gerber, another city councilor, said there would be risk in holding the event and pointed to increasing numbers of coronavirus cases.

The City Council at the recent meeting did not make a decision and was expected to return to the discussions shortly, likely next week. The delay was designed to allow officials to monitor the spread of the coronavirus and provide time for the sides to continue talks.

The Kimball Art Center decision continues a string of high-profile cancellations this summer as event organizers worry about the illness. The Park Silly Sunday Market, the Tour of Utah bicycling race and the Big Stars, Bright Nights concert series are some of the notable summertime cancellations.

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