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Festival Goers And Community Members Look To The Future At Sundance Bonfire

Some 200 festival goers and Park City community members envisioned the future—and kept warm—around a bonfire at the Sundance Film Festival Thursday. The event celebrated a culture of storytelling.

The Salt Lake-based Jambo Africa Burundi drummers set the tone for the Sundance bonfire Thursday evening. The group jumped and drummed through the crowd, while guests waited for a six-foot-tall stack of wooden pallets to be lit in the middle of the Flagpole parking lot off Swede Alley. Festival goers wrote their interpretation of the festival’s theme, “Imagined Futures,” on the pallets, which were ignited by outgoing Festival Director John Cooper.

Sydney Ridder from Boston channeled good vibes with her message.

“I wrote 'radiate positivity,'" Ridder said, explaining that's the kind of future she wants.  "Along with 'it's all going to be all gravy, baby,' and 'I love this life that I live.'”

Allison Jones lives in Orange County but has a second home in Heber. She didn’t get the chance to write her wish for the future on the pallets before emergency staff roped them off, but Jones knows exactly what she would have said.

“I would have written 'looking forward to this new decade in the '20s, and here's to incredible imagination,'" Jones said. "And 'the sky's the limit.'”

After the drums quieted and students from the Park City High School choir performed, Sundance Documentary Film Program Director Tabitha Jackson asked Park City Mayor Andy Beerman to describe his imagined future, before tossing more wood onto the pyre. Beerman says he wants more unity to address issues on a global scale. Locally, Beerman spoke to the city’s relationship with the Sundance Film Festival.

“We've enjoyed almost 40 years with Sundance, and literally, we've grown up together," Beerman said. "A lot of people look back on those periods and say, 'the best days are behind us,' but I hope, through strong partnerships and bold decisions, we can move forward and our best days are yet ahead.”

This year, the Sundance Institute featured a message before each screening, thanking the Ute Tribe for allowing the screenings to take place on tribal land. Bart Powaukee is a Ute Tribe member and attended the bonfire with the Red Spirit singers. But Powaukee also has an idea of the future he’d like to see.

“As natives, we’re always looking for our youth, and those guys are our future," Powaukee said. "So we're looking for the future of them to see step in our footprints after everything's done. We want to show them all we can teach them, so when they grow up they can have this, keep their culture and their spirituality alive with them. So, we have to keep rotating into the future of our children.”

You can find video of the bonfire at KPCW’s Facebook page.

Emily Means hadn’t intended to be a journalist, but after two years of studying chemistry at the University of Utah, she found her fit in the school’s communication program. Diving headfirst into student media opportunities, Means worked as a host, producer and programming director for K-UTE Radio as well as a news writer and copy editor at The Daily Utah Chronicle.
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