When is a special event not so special?
Call it a First World problem, if you must, but Park City’s burgeoning special-events calendar has become a thorny issue. According to a report presented to the Park City Council this week, in 2016 there have been 81 special events that drew a total of 440,000 attendees.
Some say there are too many tournaments, concerts and festivals clogging local roads and trails, forcing Parkites to retreat to the safety of their own backyards. Others point out that the high-profile roster of sports tournaments and cultural events has given the economy a significant boost. That same report included a tally of summer lodging figures that has more than doubled over the last five years, presumably due to the uptick in special events.
There is truth to both sides of the argument, which is why, last year, the Park City Council established a Special Events Advisory Committee and undertook a systematic analysis of the economic benefits and liabilities of each event. The city council also adopted a set of guidelines to help evaluate new event applications based on public safety and economic and community benefits.
Let’s be honest, when out-of-town houseguests come to visit, we love showing off our street festivals and outdoor concerts. But when we want a little elbow room for ourselves, not so much.
More importantly, the constant flow of business generated by the expanding summer events schedule has smoothed out the town’s seasonal economy, turning ski-season jobs into year-round professions and offering local merchants an important measure of stability.
However, Park City may be reaching its special events limit. In August, for instance, there was a cascade of scheduling conflicts between the Tour of Utah, The Park City Kimball Arts Festival, the Summit County Fair and the Park Silly Sunday Market — each of which took place against a backdrop of softball, soccer or other tournaments competing for many of the same hotel rooms, restaurant reservations and parking places. The month gave rise to a new epidemic dubbed ‘event fatigue’ from which some residents and city staffers are still recovering.
In response the City Council is reviewing its special events policies with an eye toward reducing negative impacts on the community and clarifying the criteria for new events. The goal is to find a balance that sustains a vital economic base while also ensuring that locals enjoy their summer in the city, too.