Silly Market stays put |

Silly Market stays put

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

The organizers of the Park Silly Sunday Market won a hard-fought deal with City Hall to keep the weekly summer and fall event on Main Street, reaching an agreement heavy on financial inducements that took months to finalize.

The Park City Council on Thursday night approved the deal on a 4-1 vote. City Councilwoman Candy Erickson cast the dissenting vote, saying she did not support the incentive package for the Silly Market since some of the brick-and-mortar businesses on Main Street have said their sales have suffered in the Silly Market era.

Mayor Dana Williams and the City Council spent months trying to craft an agreement with the Silly Market organizers. The Silly Market side wanted a multiyear deal to better position themselves with the event’s sponsors. The agreement keeps the event on Main Street for three years starting in 2010. It has two two-year options after the original term.

"I think we’re all in a really good place with each other. The relationship is stronger," said Kimberly Kuehn, a cofounder of the Silly Market who typically leads the negotiations with City Hall, said in an interview afterward. "I think it’s naturally the growing pains of an event on Main Street."

The package of financial inducements includes:

$30,000 annually for the Silly Market, staged on lower Main Street, to expand its marketing programs

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$10,000 each year for the organizers to expand activities south of Heber Avenue. The Silly Market, though, would not be eligible for the $10,000 if a separate agreement is not reached for the expanded activities.

$40,000 annually to be put toward the Silly Market’s lower Main Street locale.

$25,600 in City Hall fee waivers each year

$10,000 annually in donated services from City Hall

The financial package totals $115,600 each year.

The Silly Market side had wanted the City Council to approve a major southward expansion to the event, with the idea prior to the meeting being to 5th Street. The market’s southern border has been Heber Avenue. The elected officials, though, refused to allow the move up Main Street for now. Instead, the City Council requested more talks between the Silly Market, Main Street leaders and City Hall staffers about an expansion and the street closure that would be required. Those are expected to occur over the next two weeks. Street closures have long been a touchy topic among Main Street merchants worried that customers will avoid the street when it is closed to traffic.

If the sides are unable to reach an accord, the Silly Market would remain on lower Main Street. The expansion southward was seen as a carrot for businesses on the upper stretches of the street that have said sales have suffered over the years of the Silly Market, which drew close to 90,000 people in 2009, its third season. The 2010 Silly Market season is scheduled to open on June 13 and run until Sept. 26.

The agreement was reached over three Thursday night sessions between the elected officials and the Silly Market organizers. The vote was not cast until 11:30 p.m., one of the latest City Council meetings in years. The Silly Market leaders, sitting in the hallway outside the City Council chambers, ordered a pizza between the negotiating sessions. City Hall staffers drafted sections of the agreement in between the sessions.

Even with the agreement, the Silly Market likely must continue to repair its relations with some of the merchants and restaurateurs on Main Street. The event deeply divided the street, with businesses closest to the Silly Market stretch of Main Street generally saying sales were solid during the event and many of those further away from lower Main Street claiming Sunday sales sunk. The businesses that suffered have typically credited the drop in sales to the appearance of the Silly Market.

The discussions about a multiyear deal started in 2009, but the Silly Market organizers broke off the talks late last year after an agreement appeared to be in jeopardy. In the just more than three months since the breakdown of talks, the Silly Market considered nine other sites in Park City and the Snyderville Basin as a locale for the event. It is not clear how far the discussions with the other sites advanced.

Testimony from Main Street businesses on Thursday was mixed. Some of the comments included that the Silly Market has cut into sales on lower Main Street as well as on the upper portion of the street but that the event is popular with people who own vacation getaways on Main Street and other people who stay on Main Street during their summer vacations.