Park City arts fest projected to draw 50,000, essentially a return to pre-coronavirus level

Key cultural event scheduled to return to Main Street in August after 2020 cancellation

The Park City Kimball Arts Festival, shown in 2018, is scheduled to return to Main Street after the event was canceled in 2020 out of concern for the spread of the novel coronavirus. Organizers estimate 50,000 people will attend later in the summer.
Park Record file photo

The organizers of the Park City Kimball Arts Festival estimate 50,000 people will attend the event planned later in the summer, a number that would put the attendance in the range of arts festivals prior to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The 50,000-person estimate was included in materials presented to Mayor Andy Beerman and the Park City Council for a recent meeting. The City Council at the meeting approved the plans for the arts festival this year. The event is scheduled on Main Street from Aug. 6 until Aug. 8.

A crowd size of 50,000 would essentially mark a complete return for the festival a year after the event was canceled amid worries about the coronavirus. The arts festival in 2019 drew 53,550 people, according to a report detailing the economic impact of the event that was released after the festival was held that year. A 50,000 figure has been used as a rough guide of attendance for at least several years.

The estimate covers the entire three-day event, meaning it is not expected that 50,000 people would be on Main Street at any given time. Still, under the projected numbers, the arts festival at its busiest point will likely be the largest gathering in Park City since the spread of the sickness forced the cancellation or reimagining of a series of events in 2020 and 2021.

The arts festival crowds typically stretch the length of Main Street as people move through the artist booths, take in the entertainment and mingle. Small groups of people are regularly seen in close quarters during the event, particularly as they browse the works in the artist booths.

The organizers will reduce the number of artist booths by 10%, according to the materials presented to the elected officials. The number of booths will drop from 276 during a typical arts festival to 246 in 2021, the materials said, indicating the reduced number allows for better social distancing. The organizers will also eliminate a beer garden that is normally set up in Miners Park, another step influenced by the desire for social distancing.

The Kimball Art Center, meanwhile, will charge admission on a daily basis rather than selling a pass for the weekend “to allow the Festival the flexibility to cap sales if needed due to COVID-19,” according to the materials.

The Kimball Art Center in mid-June of 2020 canceled that year’s festival, which had been slated from July 31 until Aug. 2. Organizers at that time cited the complications of ensuring social distancing and other protective measures in the decision to cancel the event. The cancellation last year was announced shortly after an especially tense meeting between the Kimball Art Center leadership and Park City’s elected officials about the plans for the festival.

The arts festival, running for longer than 50 years, is seen as one of the centerpiece special events on Park City’s busy calendar. It is also one of the community’s top cultural tourism draws.

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