Park City police prepare for Sundance even without the crowds |

Park City police prepare for Sundance even without the crowds

Law enforcement agency wants to be ready if there are issues during festival

Police officers directed traffic during the Sundance Film Festival at the intersection of Main Street and Heber Avenue in 2019, one of the typical law enforcement duties as the festival unfolds. The Park City Police Department is preparing for Sundance in 2021 even though there are not live events planned.
Park Record file photo

There will not be any movie stars needing assistance on Main Street this week during the Sundance Film Festival.

No demonstrators are expected. The traffic will likely not be much worse than it has been recently. And it seems unlikely the typical mayhem of the festival will return.

But the Park City Police Department nonetheless is preparing for the possibility of issues during Sundance that require a law enforcement response.

Phil Kirk, a police captain, said the agency is readying for Sundance in an effort “to be proactive, not reactive.”

“This one is more of a guessing game,” Kirk said, adding, “It’s not like other Sundance festivals.”

The Police Department has scheduled additional officers to be on patrol during Sundance, which opens on Thursday and runs through Feb. 3. The length of the festival is reduced from the traditional 11 days. Sundance has shifted to an online platform for the festival this year and there is not an in-person venue in Park City.

The police decline to discuss the number of additional officers who will be on duty, citing the sensitivity of security planning. Kirk, though, said the increase covers the entire festival run and at all hours. The levels can be scaled back if it is determined so many officers are not needed.

It is not clear what sorts of crowds will arrive in Park City during the Sundance dates other than those who have scheduled a ski vacation at that time.

There could be curiosity seekers wanting a glimpse of Park City during Sundance without the accompanying festival hubbub and traffic. There are only limited signs in Park City, such as the marquee at the Egyptian Theatre and Main Street banners, this year noting the festival. Otherwise the community is expected to offer little denoting the festival as it is held virtually.

The Police Department during a usual Sundance is hopping, especially during the jammed opening weekend. The agency fields numerous calls related to the festival crowds. There are usually persistent complaints about parking problems as the crowds leave vehicles across Park City, including on streets surrounding Main Street and in locations close to screening rooms. The traffic issues also mount with backups on the entryways, Old Town and elsewhere. Noise complaints are also commonplace.

The police officers sometimes respond to worries about people crowding celebrities and complaints about film promoters hawking their works. In one episode in 2020, the police chief, Wade Carpenter, suffered a minor injury when someone at a nightclub threw an object at his head while he was conducting what was described as a compliance check during a concert by rap artist Wiz Khalifa.

Other law enforcement agencies like the Summit County Sheriff’s Office and the Utah Highway Patrol are usually also involved in the protection plan during Sundance since there are normally festival-related activities in unincorporated Summit County and state roads like S.R. 224 and S.R. 248 are heavily used by the crowds headed to and from Park City.

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