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Kimball Art Center Looks To Free The Fest For All Festival Guests—City Questions Impacts

Kimball Art Center and Mark Maziarz

After a test run this year “freeing the fest” for Summit County residents, the Kimball Arts Festival is looking to remove admission fees for all attendees for next year’s festival. 

Representatives from the Kimball Art Center presented their proposal to the Park City Council Thursday, which includes free admission for everyone and expanding the festival footprint up to 9th Street. To maintain transit and public safety services for the festival’s projected increase in attendance, city staff estimated up to $100,000—worst case scenario—in additional city services. Kimball staff projects a 10% increase in attendance, while city staff anticipates up to 60%.

Outgoing Kimball Art Center Executive Director Jory Macomber says freeing the fest for all attendees aligns with both Kimball and the city’s equity and accessibility missions.

“When you have those barriers up there, you have the haves who get to go in and the have nots who don't go in," Macomber said. "If you make Main Street open for this festival where anybody could walk in and purchase art and look at art and talk to the artists, it will make it even that much more magical."

But as the city continues conversations around event impact mitigation on locals, Councilmember Steve Joyce wondered if freeing the fest would bring too many visitors into town from Salt Lake City and other parts of the valley who aren’t providing much economic benefit—just causing more congestion. He asked for more data to determine if additional city subsidies would be worth it.

“If you guys grow as a result of this and it puts more heads in beds kind of thing, that's interesting," Joyce said. "If it's people who are really here spending money, that's interesting. If it's the day shoppers looking for somewhere to go that's cooler than Salt Lake because it's so damn hot down there, financially, that person is one more unit of traffic and everything, but they didn't spend much.”

Councilmember Becca Gerber couldn’t speak for Joyce but told KPCW she understood his concerns to be related to the traffic brought by visitors coming up from the valley, while out-of-town guests are more likely to pay for lodging, take transit while in town and spend more money.

“We do understand that our overnight people that come and spend the night here are going to spend more money in town overall, so you get less of a traffic-congestion impact and more of a tax benefit from some of those guests," Gerber said. "So I can understand that part, but I don't think it's necessarily about keeping riff raff off. I think it's more about if we're going to have these impacts on our residents, making the biggest tax benefit from it.”

The city council gave direction to Kimball and city staff to move forward with exploring more cost details related to removing the festival’s entrance fee. The arts festival is the Kimball Art Center’s biggest fundraiser of the year, providing much of the center’s operating costs. The current entrance fee is $15. Kimball staff plans to work to make up the difference with more artist booths and sponsorships.

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