Tense talks anticipated as Silly Market’s future hinges on new deal
A three-year contract between City Hall and Park Silly Sunday Market organizers to hold the popular event on Main Street expires this year, forcing the two sides, as well as Main Street, into what will likely be a tense set of negotiations through the middle of November.
The contract covered the Silly Market in 2010, 2011 and 2012, and it includes two two-year option periods. Either side must provide written notice by Nov. 15 if they do not plan to exercise the option, leaving upward of six weeks for Park City officials and Silly Market leaders to try to reach a deal.
Main Street is expected to be heavily involved in the discussions as well. There are lingering concerns among some of the brick-and-mortar businesses about flagging Sunday sales during the Silly Market. They claim the Silly Market has funneled business away on Sundays in the summer and fall. It seems probable that there will continue to be a rift between the Silly Market and some of the year-round businesses as the negotiations unfold.
Jonathan Weidenhamer, who manages City Hall’s economic development programs and is assigned to the negotiations, said he plans to brief Mayor Dana Williams and the Park City Council about the situation as early as mid-October. He said officials plan to talk to Main Street leaders and the Silly Market shortly.
It is not certain what they key points in the discussions will be. It appears, though, there could be talk about reducing the number Sundays that the Silly Market operates. It currently is open each Sunday from the middle of June until late September except the weekend of the Park City Kimball Arts Festival in August.
Scaling back the number of Sundays would be the most dramatic change in the operations since its debut in 2007. Kimberly Kuehn, the executive director of the Silly Market and one of the event’s cofounders, said a document has been circulated referring to a once-a-month schedule. The document was drafted by Main Street leaders, she said.
Kuehn said she would reject a schedule that calls for the Silly Market to become a monthly event. She said such a change is "definitely out of the question."
"The community likes it every weekend and the tourists love it," Kuehn said.
She said the Silly Market wants to return to Main Street in 2013 and it is plausible that it will be staged there again next year. She said, however, if recommendations outlined by Main Street leaders are put into an agreement with City Hall, the Silly Market would move to another location.
Alison Butz, the executive director of the Historic Park City Alliance, said the group has not made a formal proposal for changes to the operations of the Silly Market. The alliance represents businesses on or close to Main Street.
Butz declined to discuss whether reducing the frequency of the Silly Market will be part of the alliance’s proposal. She acknowledged the board of directors of the alliance addressed the frequency at a recent meeting.
She said the group continues to gather opinions about the Silly Market’s 2012 run. Butz said the alliance plans to present a package of requested operational changes to the Silly Market and City Hall as early as next week.
According to a report drafted in anticipation of a recent meeting of the alliance board of directors, an events committee of the alliance has talked about a once-a-month schedule from May until October involving the full length of Main Street. Another option outlined in the report would keep the Silly Market running each Sunday at its current location but ending it at 1 p.m. Main Street leaders also want the Silly Market to have local vendors selling handmade items.
There have been long-running concerns about the impact of the Silly Market on business on Main Street, especially on the upper reaches of the street. Some of the businesses claim the Silly Market has funneled crowds to lower Main Street, cutting into sales on the upper part of the street.
The Silly Market over the years has made operational changes like locating the farmers market along upper Main Street in an effort to attract crowds up the street. The organizers also tinkered with the time, closing a little later to keep the crowds on Main Street as dinnertime approached.
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