Kimball Art Center hopes to keep festival on Main Street
The Kimball Art Center has left Main Street.
The Park City Kimball Arts Festival has not.
This year’s festival is the first held since the not-for-profit organization that puts on the event moved from its longtime building at the intersection of Main Street and Heber Avenue to a temporary location in Bonanza Park along Kearns Boulevard. The 2016 edition of the festival, one of the signature events of the summer tourism calendar, was expected to unfold operationally like those in the past when the Kimball Art Center was situated steps from the artist booths, food vendors and entertainment.
The 2016 festival, though, marks the final year of an agreement between City Hall and the Kimball Art Center to stage the event on Main Street. The municipal government and the organizers in 2007 reached an agreement that kept the festival on Main Street until 2011 with an automatic five-year renewal.
It appears the move of the Kimball Art Center will not threaten the festival’s long-term future on Main Street, the sides say. City Hall and the Kimball Art Center leadership anticipate engaging in discussions later with the goal of reaching another agreement to hold the event on Main Street.
Kathy Kennedy, the managing director of the Kimball Art Center, said in an interview the organization hopes to negotiate a deal for another five years, which would locate the event on Main Street until 2021. Even as the Kimball Art Center moved off Main Street, the shopping, dining and entertainment strip, it seems, is the preferred spot for the festival.
“It’s just a great atmosphere, and Main Street, Park City, is a beautiful setting,” Kennedy said, adding, “We just make it work because it’s the best place to be.”
Kennedy said the Kimball Art Center side will seek a similar agreement to the one it now holds with City Hall, which outlines the amount of municipal assistance that is provided for the event. She also said, though, the organizers want any agreement to ensure the festival is held over the first weekend of August, the traditional dates of the event. She said the Kimball Art Center does not want to shift the dates to accommodate the Tour of Utah bicycling race, as it did this year.
The agreement reached in 2007 involved a package of City Hall financial incentives and municipal services, including $5,000 annually to assist with security along the perimeter and another $8,000 in unspecified in-kind services. There had been occasional chatter prior to the 2007 agreement about the Kimball Art Center moving the festival somewhere else, but in each case the sides reached an accord for the Main Street setup.
The event drew 56,522 attendees in 2015 from across the U.S. A study conducted on behalf of the Kimball Art Center showed 61 percent of the attendees had an annual household income of $100,000 or more, with 23 percent indicating they are in a household with an annual income topping $200,000. The economic impact of the arts festival in 2015 hit nearly $28.5 million, the study showed.
There are expected to be private discussions between Kimball Art Center officials and City Hall staffers in the coming months about an agreement. The Park City Council would eventually be asked to approve a deal in a public setting. Jonathan Weidenhamer, the economic development manager for City Hall, said discussions started preliminarily late last spring. He said he expects the discussions will become more detailed in the fall and address municipal services like police protection, transit and parking. Weidenhamer said he hopes a deal is struck between City Hall and the Kimball Art Center by midwinter.
“We’re incredibly happy with our longest-tenured cultural event on Main Street,” Weidenhamer said.
The overall talks about the festival in the past – those that involved the festival footprint and broader logistical matters – have included points related to the impact on Main Street businesses. Some have complained the festival hurts sales based on a variety of issues, including the layout of the artist booths. There have been changes over the years meant to boost Main Street sales during the festival weekend, such as setting up artist booths in a manner that provides easier access to the businesses.
The leadership of Main Street is expected to monitor the discussions regarding a long-term agreement between City Hall and the Kimball Art Center. The Historic Park City Alliance, a business group centered on Main Street, will almost certainly eventually provide detailed input. Alison Kuhlow, the executive director of the group, said she plans to discuss the topic with the alliance’s members starting in September.
She said the Historic Park City Alliance has not conducted a detailed assessment of the festival’s impact on sales along Main Street in several years. She said business is a “mixed bag” during the event.
Kuhlow said the group has not yet crafted a position on the prospects of logistical changes under a new agreement. She said there is a possibility a request could be made to extend the hours of the festival, perhaps until 9 p.m., on the Saturday of the event, something that could keep festival-goers on Main Street later.
“I think Main Street provides such an iconic backdrop for them,” Kuhlow said.
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