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Kimball Arts Festival gets one-year contract extension

 Kimball Arts Festival 2019
The Kimball Arts Festival in 2019.

The Kimball Arts Festival will return in 2023 on the weekend of August 6.

The Park City Council has extended the contract for the Kimball Arts Festival by one year. Discussions about a longer contract are still in the works.

The event’s contract with the city expired this year, and after surveying merchants and talking to organizers, the city council voted to keep the summer festival on Main Street for at least one more year.

Organizers said they needed to let artists and participants know right away whether or not they’d be invited back to Main Street next summer - many juggle multiple festivals and make their plans far in advance.

The extended contract doesn’t contain any changes. It keeps in place a waiver of up to $180,000 of city fees, with the Kimball Arts Center instead contributing $10,000. The $180,000 is a longstanding estimate of the city’s maximum costs to issue permits and provide services such as law enforcement during the festival.

Councilmember Jeremy Rubell questioned that $180,000 figure, saying the festival only cost the city $80,000 this year. Costs were much lower in 2022 because transit and police staffing decreased.

Rubell told KPCW that the council is unanimous in wanting to secure a long term contract, but he wants to make sure the deal is right.

“We absolutely are getting a return to some degree," Rubell said.

"The question is, what return is that? The only real hard number we have are the state tax revenue numbers.

"So if we consider those the direct impact, which are only from the artist sales, the booths on the street, and the food vendors as part of the festival - that’s one component, and we do have a clear number there. What we don’t have quite a clear number on yet is what’s the indirect contribution towards the economy.”

According to a presentation by the Kimball Arts Center, the 2022 festival generated almost $450,000 in tax revenues. The nonprofit made the argument to the council last week that the last festival generated $23 million in total economic impact.

At the meeting, Rubell expressed doubt over the $23 million, which came from Lighthouse Research, a market research firm based in Salt Lake.

Councilmember Tana Toly, who owns and operates Red Banjo Pizza on Main Street, offered her perspective on the festival.

“I still support having it as a business owner, because it still brings something to the street that we don’t normally have," Toly said.

"And it’s just one weekend. But I think that it’s important that the businesses that are affected by these closures and by taking cars off Main Street, and all of those sorts of things - that that is a big part of this. I do want to make sure we talk about - 67% of the businesses were in agreement of having it."

Toly was referring to a survey of Historic Park City Alliance members, which showed two thirds wanting to see the festival continue.

Aldy Milliken, executive director of the Kimball Arts Center, told the council it’s impossible to measure the impact of culture.

“I’m not convinced that we’re going to achieve the information that you require to really answer your question," Milliken said. "But I look forward to working with you to come up with a formula, if that’s what we’re talking about.”

The festival has a long history on Park City’s Main Street, dating back to 1969. It typically occurs on the first weekend in August.

For now, the arts fest will return in 2023 on the weekend of August 6.