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Return of special events is a prime opportunity to recalibrate summer in Park City



PROVO, Utah – Last year, as virtually every special event that typically marks summer in Park City was called off due to the coronavirus pandemic, there was worry that the glut of cancellations could be another devastating blow to a local economy already reeling from business shutdowns and the early end to ski season.

But a surprising thing happened over the course of the summer — people came here anyway, keeping businesses, and the Park City economy, afloat.

While it may not have been as lucrative as a typical summer for many businesses, that the town was still busy despite the empty calendar left Parkites and city officials pondering a couple of questions: Are special events as crucial to our economy in the summer as we’ve always thought? And if not, is it time to scale them back?

At the heart of the issue is the oft-debated balance between special events and livability. For the most part, we Parkites are happy to share our town with visitors. And many of the events, from the weekly Park Silly Sunday Market on lower Main Street to the Tour of Utah bicycle race, contribute to making this a special place to live. We appreciate what these events mean to our town both economically and culturally.

But there are also drawbacks that come with summers packed with a seemingly endless string of special events that bring tens of thousands of people into our backyard. Summer is not yet as jammed as ski season, but Parkites are feeling the effects as they wait in traffic jams, jostle for parking on Main Street and contend with tourists for restaurant reservations.

Few, if any, Parkites would advocate for ditching long-established traditions like the Fourth of July parade on Main Street or the Park City Kimball Arts Festival, but there likely are ways to dial back. Perhaps we could do with fewer massive sports tournaments, for instance, without businesses taking a hit to the bottom line.

Or maybe not. Given what we learned last year, when people flocked to town not for special events but for our outdoor recreation offerings and our fresh air, it is at least worth a discussion.

After the challenges and changes of the last year, Parkites are readjusting, individually and collectively, in so many ways. Maybe a recalibration of what summer in Park City looks and feels like is in order, too.