Sundance plans a Park City bonfire, making fest even hotter than is typical

Sundance Film Festival organizers plan to hold a public bonfire and celebration on the second Thursday of Sundance in the flagpole lot on lower Swede Alley. The event is designed to further enliven the final days of the festival and is known as the Imagined Futures Bonfire.
Jay Hamburger/Park Record

The Sundance Film Festival in January will be an even hotter event than is typical.

Festival organizers recently received the go-ahead from City Hall to hold a public bonfire and celebration designed to further enliven the final days of Sundance. It will be the first such event during Sundance. The bonfire is scheduled on Jan. 30, which is the second Thursday of Sundance, at the flagpole lot on lower Swede Alley. The bonfire and accompanying celebration is slated to start at 4 p.m. and run until 5:30 p.m.

A City Hall report drafted in anticipation of a recent Park City Council meeting indicated the event could attract Parkites to the Main Street core and said the bonfire “will celebrate the Sundance Institute, storytelling, and independent film.” The report said the event will require a parking prohibition in the flagpole lot from 6 a.m. until 2 a.m.

Sundance organizers provided a prepared statement about the bonfire in response to a Park Record request, calling the event the Imagined Futures Bonfire. Imagined Futures is a theme for the festival in 2020. It “will be a fantastic opportunity for our Park City community to join us in celebration as we head into the final weekend of the festival,” the statement, attributed to Tabitha Jackson, the director of the documentary film program at Sundance, said.

“The open gathering, connecting locals, visitors and festival artists (as well as a star turn from the Park City High School Choir) will allow us to celebrate our future together and all the art that lies ahead of us as we kick off a new decade — while being surrounded by the beauty of our Park City home,” the statement said.

The scheduling of the event on the second Thursday appears timed to add an attraction heading into the final three days of Sundance. The festival hubbub by that time has usually subsided to some degree after the traditionally jammed opening weekend. There are still normally large crowds in Park City, but many of the temporary corporate setups have been dismantled by the second Thursday and the overall crowd has thinned.

An event like the bonfire is unlikely to draw crowds like those over the opening weekend, but it will likely attract more people than would otherwise be in the Main Street core at that time. A bonfire could provide a boost to Main Street sales if that is the case.

The bonfire was not heavily discussed as Sundance organizers and Park City leaders in recent weeks debated a set of operational changes for the festival. Much of the focus was instead on modifications to traffic patterns as the sides attempt to craft a plan to better manage the crush of cars in Old Town during Sundance.

Sundance is scheduled to run from Jan. 23 until Feb. 2. It is widely seen as the top marketplace of independent films in the U.S. and draws some of the largest crowds of the year to Park City as film buffs, industry figures and celebrity gawkers descend on the community.

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