Park City leaders concerned about holding arts fest amid coronavirus spread

The Park City Kimball Arts Festival.
Park Record file photo

Park City leaders on Thursday addressed the Park City Kimball Arts Festival, expressing concerns about holding the event amid the continued spread of the novel coronavirus and leaving the status of the event unclear.

Mayor Andy Beerman and the Park City Council met with the leadership of the Kimball Art Center, which organizes the annual summertime event. The festival is one of the largest special events on the Park City calendar and usually draws some of the biggest three-day crowds of the year. It is scheduled from July 31 until Aug. 2.

The organizers say they have crafted a plan for the event that takes into account the concerns about the sickness. The arts festival could be held in an environment of social distancing, they say. The Kimball Art Center side told the elected officials it is consulting with Summit County health officials.

The Kimball Art Center said the crowd size could range from 700 to 750 at any one time, not counting the artists, organizers, security and others needed to put on the event. The number of artist booths would be reduced from approximately 220 during a typical year to upward of 140 in 2020. Entry would be restricted through timed tickets. The numbers allow for social distancing, the Kimball Art Center side says.

Dan Lemaitre, the chairman of the board of directors of the Kimball Art Center, described the plans as a “truncated version” of the festival. He argued the event would help Park City with the economic recovery and said artist sales have been catastrophically impacted by the spread of the sickness. Lemaitre said the safety of the people involved with the event or in attendance would be critical.

But some of the elected officials are concerned holding the arts festival could damage the efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

City Councilor Steve Joyce mentioned a worry about the sickness, indicating he did not want to jeopardize the ski season should the coronavirus spread in the months before. Max Doilney, another city councilor, raised the issue as well but also said holding the arts festival could show Park City is capable of hosting a crowd. He said if City Hall were to take a chance with an event, it could do so with the Kimball Art Center and at the time of year of the arts festival.

City Councilor Becca Gerber, though, responded by saying it would be taking a chance with lives. Gerber also said there is risk and pointed toward rising coronavirus numbers. Doilney later acknowledged it is a “risky option” with so many people.

The City Council wants to return to the discussions shortly, likely as early as next week. The spread of the coronavirus will be monitored and more talks are expected between City Hall staffers and the Kimball Art Center in the meantime. The elected officials also want to approach the arts festival under the public-health restrictions of the so-called yellow phase of the Gov. Gary Herbert’s response plan even if the community has been moved into the less restrictive green phase.

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