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Possible Changes To Kimball Arts Festival Include Free Entry For Everyone

Kimball Art Center and Mark Maziarz


The Park City Council will discuss potential changes to the Kimball Arts Festival Thursday, including freeing the festival for all attendees and expanding the festival’s footprint to more of Main Street. 



Although the Kimball Art Festival’s contract with Park City Municipal isn’t up for renewal until 2021, the city council will consider the Kimball Art Center’s proposed changes to this year’s festival. Park City Manager Matt Dias says the city council and staff members are interested in removing admission fees from the festival, from an accessibility and equity standpoint, but there’s also concern about the potential impacts of increased attendance. 


“For the city, that means additional trash and recycling and pedestrian management and transit and public safety," DIas said. "So, it’s a balancing act, and ultimately that’s going to be a concern, a question for city council.”


The city provides up to $180,000 in fee waivers to the festival for services. Per the city’s estimates, freeing the fest entirely could result in a 20 to 30% increase in festival attendance, which would put the festival past its waiver limit. But the Kimball Art Center projects only a 10% increase in attendance with no admissions fee. Kimball Art Center Communications Director Amy Roberts says that estimate comes from looking at the last four festivals’ attendance data and a couple hundred people who have come to the festival and left when they realized it required paid entry. 


“Historically, the numbers haven’t changed more than about 1,400 people between 2016 to 2019," Roberts said. "There's that information—1,400 is just not that many, especially when we freed the festival for the entire county.” 


The festival is the Kimball Art Center’s largest fundraiser of the year—its revenue provides around 40% of the center’s annual budget. Roberts estimates gate admissions contribute about 25% of the festival’s revenue, so the center would take a financial hit by freeing the fest. To make it up, Roberts says the center would increase the number of artist booths and sponsorships for the festival as well as looking for ways to trim operational costs. But the desire to free the fest, Roberts says, supports the organization’s role in the community. 


“We do feel that some decisions need to be driven by mission rather than money," Roberts said. "We don’t feel like the ability to be inspired and connect through art, which is our mission, should be subject to a means test.” 


As for the potential increase in city fee waivers, Roberts can’t say for sure whether it would be greater than the past until after the festival. But Roberts says the economic benefits of the festival far exceed the cost of city services. 


“When people buy art at the festival, they pay a sales tax," Roberts said. "There’s restaurants that benefit from people coming to Main Street, and there’s obviously a tax on their food. Everything from fuel, to hotel stays, lodging; all of that is part of our economic impact report, and you can see through our data that there’s a good return on that investment.” 


The Park City Council will discuss changes to the Kimball Arts Festival during a work session Thursday, scheduled for 4:15 p.m.  

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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