Amy Roberts: Sticking the landing for the 50th Park City Kimball Arts Festival
In the interest of full disclosure, this week I’m double dipping.
In my real, “big girl” job, I am the communications director for Kimball Art Center, one of Park City’s oldest nonprofits. As such, I’m one of a handful of dedicated employees working around-the-clock to put on and pull off the Park City Kimball Arts Festival this weekend. Coordinating over 220 artists, a variety of sponsors, dozens of vendors, several media outlets, hundreds of volunteers, and tens of thousands of attendees is no joke. You have to be strategic, scrappy, and a little militant to make it all come together. Any spontaneity is meticulously planned.
Our event planning binders look like a cross between a NASA flight manual and War and Peace. When I start flipping through them in April, I sometimes wonder if we’re planning to put an artist on the moon. They are filled with microscopic details and precise instructions — load-in times are scheduled to the second and drawn-to-scale renderings noting the exact grade of the slope in any given spot are included. Nothing is left to chance. I am pretty sure our operations team could tell you how much ice we order down to the cube.
We have one team dedicated to details like this, and another dedicated to the overall event experience. The promoters and artists and creators who focus on the fluffy and fun stuff — bigger picture memory makers. We’re the ones who usually start a meeting with, “Wouldn’t it be so cool if we did ___! (Fill in the blank with something that sounds as awesome as it does impractical.)
We get so wrapped up in our mind-blowing ideas, we hardly notice the detail team losing their minds at those very suggestions.
Yet instead of clashing, somehow these two groups gel. Against all odds and defying all probability, the yin and the yang complement one another to produce a pretty dynamic event. They’ve done it every year for the last 50 years, and this weekend it all happens again, this time with the oomph of a golden anniversary.
In a town where people, businesses, resort owners and events come and go, a 50th anniversary is nothing short of monumental. Park City has long been a bit of a chameleon, changing as needed to survive. And at a time when so many locals are questioning if things have changed too much, if tradition has been forever lost to trend and our identity has been altered beyond recognition, there’s something pretty special about celebrating an event that has held its ground for half a century.
Like the town itself, the Park City Kimball Arts Festival has evolved over the decades. To say its beginnings were humble is an understatement. Artist Keith Rockwood will be at this year’s event — he was here in 1969 selling his art at the first Festival. When I spoke to him last week, he told me that 50 years ago there was no application or dedicated booth space. He just brought some lawn chairs and his artwork and plopped it all down along Main Street in hopes of selling something.
Things are a bit more advanced now — it’s a nationally recognized event, filled with world-renowned artists. There are sponsors, VIP Lounges, and special events all weekend long too. But what remains just as true today as it was five decades ago is the recognition that art makes a community more diverse, happier, healthier, vibrant, and the type of place we’re proud to call home.
I started this column with the admission I was double dipping. But the reality is, it’s more like I’m multitasking. My bread and butter is earned as one of the people who helps plan Arts Fest, but in this job, my role is to muse about things that matter to our community. And the Park City Kimball Arts Festival has mattered to us for 50 years.
I hope to see you on Main Street this weekend as we celebrate half a century of creativity, community and connection.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis.
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Tom Clyde has a lot to worry about these days, with the coronavirus pandemic, the uncertain economy and airplane parts falling from the sky. Add mountain lions to the list.