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Although Smoke a “Disappointment,” People Are Still Showing up for the Kimball Arts Festival

Sean Higgins

The first two days of the Kimball Arts Festival in Park City had an unwelcome visitor: the heavy smoke from the wildfires burning in Oregon and Northern California.


After the 2020 Kimball Arts Festival fell victim to the COVID-19 pandemic last summer, organizers planned a scaled-back version of the event this year. 


A 10% reduction in artists and fewer food and beverage options allowed the event to spread out more. On top of that, a blanket of smoke from wildfires in Oregon and California enveloped most of the state on Friday.


Sharon and Rick Hanson have been coming to the festival since 2017 and said they appreciated the smaller feel of the festival this year. Sharon said although the smoke in the air did factor into their decision to come on Saturday, it was the cooler temperatures that convinced them to show up.


“I think the temperature factored in on having us stay longer, because we were thinking, ‘oh, it’s smoky, it’s gonna be hot,’ but the weather cooperated and there’s room to move and to talk with the artists and think and it was very, very enjoyable,” she said. 


Lisa Shine is a Kimball Arts Center Board Member and a 10-year Park City resident. She said when the smoke and reduced size because of the ongoing pandemic are factored in, attendance has been about what they expected.


“The smoke was a disappointment, but I don’t think a lot of people from coming,” said Shine. “The energy last night was great. Local’s night was wonderful, it felt like a big celebration, people coming back out and today is wonderful too. We’ve scaled down the booths for the safety of COVID reasons, so we have 200 booths instead of around 240, and I think it’s spaced out really nicely and people seem to be coming out and enjoying themselves.” 


In past years, the festival has attracted around 50,000 people to Park City over the weekend. Shine said due to the pandemic and smoke, they might not quite hit that mark this year.


Rick Hanson said the reduced size allowed them to see more of the festival than they have in the past.


“There was less vendors, but it felt more spaced,” he said. “Some people I didn’t see this year that I was hoping to, but overall we bought some stuff and liked what we saw. When it gets too crowded, you don’t get a chance to see everything, whether it’s COVID or not.”


The Kimball Arts Festival runs until Sunday, August 8th.

Sean Higgins covers all things Park City and is the Saturday Weekend Edition host at KPCW. Sean spent the first five years of his journalism career covering World Cup skiing for Ski Racing Media here in Utah and served as Senior Editor until January 2020. As Senior Editor, he managed the day-to-day news section of skiracing.com, as well as produced and hosted Ski Racing’s weekly podcast. During his tenure with Ski Racing Media, he was also a field reporter for NBC Sports, covering events in Europe.
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