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Park City’s Balloon Fest Is Good for the Soul

Standing in the middle of ten balloons, all getting ready to take off, you can’t help but look around.  You gaze in amazement at these huge, multi-colored balloons decorated like frogs, pumpkins, and gremlins, gently lifting and ready to break their earthly bonds.  Your eyes then drift to the people around you and then a little farther.  Everywhere you see… people…heads pointed up, eyes as wide as a child on Christmas morning, and smile after smile after smile.  It’s 8AM on a Saturday morning and you don’t see a soul who doesn’t seem to be enjoying this.

It truly seemed like a cleanse for Park City.  Whatever problems, troubles, or worries that people came with, they got left in the parking lot. There were neighbors sharing bagels.  There were friends holding babies.  There was a sense of calm and wonder and happiness that many of us haven’t felt in a long time.

Some people say chicken soup is good for the soul.  I say balloon festivals are even better.  I would attend one very month just for the pure joy I experienced and what I saw around me.  I know it’s been 20 years since the last festival here.  Maybe that’s what we’ve been missing.


There is hope. You Can Still Make A Difference in Summit County

If you pay attention to events in Washington D.C., you’ll know that our congress people have an approval rating of about 10%. People look at what is going on around them and feel they have no input; no way to change the course of events. They then extrapolate that despondence onto the events they see closer to home. Recently we have heard things like “the school board is going to raise our taxes again, but there is nothing I can do about it” and “Vail is going to take over this place and Park City is just going to let them”. Yet, if you look at some people trying to make a difference, you will find that the reality, at least on the local level, is far different.

There is no better example than an issue that is starting to simmer in Jeremy Ranch. There is a developer who has the right to build offices and small-retail on 66,000 square feet across from the Jeremy Store. However, the developer is requesting this be expanded 4-fold to about 235,000 square feet with homes, a hotel, and retail space. The Jeremy Ranch Home Owners Association marshaled home owners and brought them to a Summit County Council meeting on Wednesday in Coalville to speak against the issue. The County Council wasn’t prepared to discuss the issue, as it was on the next week’s agenda.

However, a number of very good things happened:

  • The County Council pushed the agenda item back a week, so that it could be held in Kimball Junction, instead of Coalville. This enables more of the public impacted to participate.
  • The Community Development Director Patrick Putt provided his email and his phone number (yes his phone number) to everyone in attendance and wanted everyone to feel free to call him or email with any questions they have. You don’t see that every day.
  • The County Council educated people in attendance on how to use the new Summit County website to sign up to receive emails, so they can stay on top of not only this issue but others ones.

What the people of Jeremy Ranch got was hope and a way forward. They found a local government that was willing to work with them and make it as easy as possible for people to make their case.

While impacting anything at the national level is unlikely for us mere mortals, at least the people of Jeremy Ranch have an even shot. It is possible to make a difference if you just try. Whether your issue is Vail, land use, dogs, or really anything else, at least Summit County seems willing to listen and consider your argument. That’s about all any of us can ask.

How did we not know about the Park City Film Studio construction “pause” until a week later?  You can now submit tips to the Parkrag online.

Yesterday morning at about 9AM we received a call. Our caller said we should contact another person and ask about the Film Studio. We did so and found out that the workers had allegedly been told about a week before that they should go home due to “lack of funds”*. We contacted another source who told us Leslie Thatcher had asked someone from the Park City Planning office about this at about 7:40 that morning. According to our source they told Ms. Thatcher that this sort of thing is “normal”.

Really? It’s common for a $120 million project to have to be put on hold while waiting for monetary commitments so the project can continue? Was that expressed during the approval process for this movie studio? It reminds me of my fraternity in 1992 who needed some money from all of us to fix our air conditioner. It was a very hot August, September, May, June… well you get the idea.

In the Park Record, which posted the story at about 10:40AM, we learned that construction had been halted on 9/9… a week before anything was reported by the City or any other media outlet. This also jibes with our earlier source’s information.

The important question is why did this take a week to come out? We know it’s embarrassing. We know it’s not the hoped-for outcome. But why did it take so long? It’s big for our little community.

I know it’s the job of businesses to control their message. I know that city governments often operate to protect themselves. I also know that we as people have a right to know about the events that impact us.

That’s why we have added the ability to submit tips to the Parkrag. If you know of something that should be reported and don’t want it squashed by the powers that be, please let us know. We can’t make any guarantees about publishing the info. We don’t have hundreds of lawyers ready to fight Cease and Desist orders. However, there are things that should be reported. If you know of something and are willing to share, please let us know.

You can either submit a form with the information or . We are also happy to take information anonymously. We just want to make sure information that should be shared is actually shared.

Our goal is to increase transparency in and around Park City. There is no reason an issue like this should have been hidden from the public for a week. Hopefully, in the future, it won’t be.

*Note: We didn’t hear the term “lack of funds” from the original source. This was relayed by someone else. So, we can’t confirm exactly what was said specifically at the time.


Studio Suspended.

Driving down Highway 248, you sure don’t miss the new Park City Film Studio’s building. It’s 40 feet tall, framed of steel, and appears to be built to last, at least what’s been completed. What you may miss are the workers that are supposed to be constructing the facility. Where are they? Are they taking a week long lunch break? It’s a ghost town.

Two months ago it was common to see construction on Saturdays, with a big crane lifting steel as high as you could see. Now the only thing moving is a piece of plastic blowing in the wind. What’s going on?

The Park Record is reporting that Greg Ericksen, the Studio’s founder, says that “the pause” is “due to financial questions surrounding future tenants.” Future tenants like Raleigh Studios, the studio that was supposed to headline the establishment but said they would be willing to let some other studio take over if there were any takers? Or Future tenants like … any movie? Either way it doesn’t look good.

We’ve expressed our doubts since our article History says the movie studio will fail was published in May. There were a number of reasons evident in 2012 that should have cast doubt on this project and prevented Park City from approving the studio. At this point we would be remiss if we didn’t remind everyone how your City Council voted on this project:

Andy Beerman – Against

Alex Butwinski – For

Cindy Matsumoto – For

Dick Peek – Against

Liza Simpson – For

The Park City Planning Commission actually voted against it but that didn’t stop the City Council from moving forward. Oops.

Ericksen says this is only a temporary stoppage and that work will begin again in the “next couple weeks”. Let’s just say we are still doubtful that this project will turn into a success.

That leaves us hoping that Park City was smart enough to limit uses for this parcel of land. If the movie studio doesn’t work, it would stand to reason a developer would want to sell it for another use. We hope those possibilities don’t include a Family Dollar, a Motel 6, and a Souper Salad. We won’t hold our breathe, though.

It hasn’t been a good couple of weeks for Park City government. We thank them for the bang up job they are doing and are looking forward to dining at the Sizzler before our next softball game across the street at Quinn’s Junction.

Update: We’ve heard word from a couple of people that the workers were sent home a week or more ago due to lack of funds. The city says work stopped September 9. Why haven’t we heard about this before?

Should Park City Film Studios Have Been Built in Moab?

Park City Film Studios has arisen from the ground like Godzilla from the sea.  Its shadow falls over not only Quinn’s Junction but all of Park City. The hope is that it brings a thriving movie production business to Park City, diversifies our community away from tourism, offer jobs, and becomes wildly successful.

Meanwhile in Detroit, Michigan Motion Picture Studio, a studio that seems to have many things in common with Park City Film Studios (PCFS), has finally started getting a couple major film projects.  Three years after Oz the Great and Powerful was being filmed, they are now working on special effects for Batman v. Superman.  Before that they worked on Into the Storm.

There are two common threads linking the two movies:

  1. They both were primarily filmed in downtown Detroit
  2. They both got big tax incentives from the state

What does that say for Park City’s chances of using it’s movie studio full-time, leading to lots of full-time jobs?  It’s likely not good. From speaking with a few people in the movie business, it seems that studios like PCFS are typically used when the majority of filming is done in close proximity to the studio.  In the case of the two Michigan films both were being filmed primarily in Detroit.  It makes sense that they would want to have special effects handled nearby.

Would it make sense for a large budget movie to be shot primarily in Park City? No, although parts of Dumb and Dumber were filmed here.  How about Salt Lake City?  There actually have been quite a few films that had some scenes filmed around Salt Lake, including Park Rag’s favorite SLC Punk!. However, many of those just use the Bonneville Salt Flats, with a majority of filming happening in Los Angeles, et al.

Yet films that are primarily shot in Utah are done for the scenery and that scenery is often in southern Utah around Moab.  Films like John Carter and Lone Ranger need something that can’t be found elsewhere.  If they are doing a majority of filming here, a production studio makes sense… in Moab… but not 5 hours away in Park City.

The other side of the equation that even makes a studio want to film in a certain location are incentives.  For instance, Michigan gave $12 million in incentives to Into the Storm and $25 million in incentives to Batman v Superman in order to entice them.  Utah provides up to a 25% tax incentive. Yet, other factors are in play:

The total allotted by the state is $6.8 million each year.
The total allotted by the state is $6.8 million each year.
The total allotted by the state is $6.8 million each year.
The total allotted by the state is $6.8 million each year.
The total allotted by the state is $6.8 million each year.
The total allotted by the state is $6.8 million each year.

People with a vested interest have been saying for years that this limit on incentives, which is 1/2 of the money given in Michigan for a movie you’ll never see, must increase. It hasn’t.  So, not a lot of movies are going to be filmed in Utah.  If some are, not a major portion of the movie will be filmed in Utah. For those that are, the majority will be filmed in southern Utah.  And that’s a long way from Park City. That’s a lot of ifs, ands, and buts… and you know how that phrase is finished.

So, we rest our hopes on a TV show, maybe a spinoff of High School Musical 6 in Space that makes sense to film in Salt Lake, and requires some wicked special effects that can only be done at PCFS.  Otherwise, it turns into another Osmond Studios, and you REALLY don’t want to know what it’s currently being used for.

Building any sort of studio in Utah is at a best a crap shoot.  At least building a production studio in Moab or St George has some logic behind it.

Park City Was Already Vail — It Just Didn’t Have the Name

In the wake of Vail’s takeover of PCMR, there was a common reaction, “this isn’t going to be the Park City we used to know anymore.” It was lamented that Big Corporate Vail was going to strip the essence of the Park City and replace it with resorts for the rich, expensive homes, celebrity-only events, and lots of outsiders. Ummm…

The truth is that this already isn’t the Park City that mine workers remember from the 1960’s, or the Main Street from the 1980’s, or the run up to the Olympics of the early 2000’s. Park City was already Vail, it just didn’t have the name. It’s funny, if we would have paid attention to what has been going on around us for years, we would already know that. There is no better way to illustrate that than with the Sundance Film Festival.

Sundance, or as it was called at the time, The Utah/US Film festival, began in 1978 in Salt Lake with the Robert Redford and the Utah Film Commission behind it. “The goal of the festival was to showcase strictly American-made films, highlight the potential of independent film, and to increase visibility for filmmaking in Utah.” Films like Deliverance, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Midnight Cowboy were inaugural films in the festival. In 1981 it moved to Park City and officially became Sundance in 1984. By 2010 critics were charging that the festival was no longer about small-budget, independent creations from outside the Hollywood system but instead was a media extravaganza for Hollywood celebrity actors, paparazzi, and luxury lounges set up by companies not affiliated with Sundance.

Much like Sundance, Park City had become unweidly. No longer was it about the Utah Film Festival or about promiting Utah films, it was about seeing Van Wilder Ryan Reynolds ride his scooter to Silver. It was about which celebrity did you see. It was about parties you could never get into. It was a place for the rich and famous from LA to vacation for a couple of days with their cohorts. That’s all fine, but it is not the Park City that people remember.

Then in 2010 Banksy, a renowned graffiti artist, came to town. He had a film called Exit Through the Gift Shop playing Sundance. Banksy has a way of telling it like it is. He is famous for quotes like “We can’t do anything to change the world until capitalism crumbles. In the meantime we should all go shopping to console ourselves.” When his film was nominated for an Oscar he noted, “This is a big surprise… I don’t agree with the concept of award ceremonies, but I’m prepared to make an exception for the ones I’m nominated for. The last time there was a naked man covered in gold paint in my house, it was me.” It’s all tongue and cheek but yet telling.

During Sundance 2010 Banksy spent his time tagging 10 sites in Park City and SLC with graffiti. That is what he does. Park City was doing what it does and was on its way to becoming Little-Vail. By then Sundance was bringining in $65 million per year into local economies. Within days of the graffiti, two things happened. The Park City you used to know and love did what you would imagine it would do, and cleaned and painted over the graffiti found on some of its walls. The new Park City was ready to exploit the opportunity. One of the Egytian Theater’s doors was tagged with an image of a rat. They took the door down and put it in storage.

Three years later, they lauched a Save Our Banksy intiative where they want $3 million from Park City locals and Banksy Lovers so they don’t have to auction the art off to a wealthy art collector. What would Banksy probably have preferred? Just leave the door on the wall and let people enjoy it as long as it lasts.

Others would say, “But what if it gets vandalized? What if someone spray paints it?” That’s just what happened to a couple of pieces that had graffiti put on top of Banksy’s graffiti art. Summit County then spent months tracking the man down and has ultimately had a judge rule that the vandal must pay $13,000 in restitution. I can only image Banksy saying “How is my graffiti right but his is wrong… except that his lacks complete talent.” The time and effort spent on finding the man and trying him could have been used in so many other ways. Yet, since Park City is what it is now, there was little choice.

As we look back on what Park city has become, it is no longer what may people remember. Robert Redford agrees. This no longer is the little film festival Robert Redford dreamed of. This year Redford said, “How can I not be satisfied about a success? But those earlier years felt best. They’re taking away some of the textures and qualities that were here that gave it a kind of intimacy. It’s no longer the place it was. I don’t like what’s happened.”

He summed up Park City perfectly. Park City hasn’t been what it once was for a long time. It’s now a town with a $125 million movie studio, $2600 per night hotel rooms, and California-style traffic. Vail didn’t bring this on us, it has been headed our direction like a freight train from Coalville. If we would have paid a little more attention maybe we could have decided to take a different path. At this point, maybe we should just try to be the best Little-Vail we can be.


The Guy Who Graffitied Banksy’s Graffiti Can Avoid Jail By Paying Restitution

Guy who defaced Banksy graffiti near Main Street can pay $13,000 in restitution to avoid jail time. I know time changes things, but I don’t think the government workers that first painted over some of the original Banksy “art works” around town had to pay anything.

Local Sheep Issue Not That Different From Global Warming

Big horn sheep have a problem. They are getting pneumonia from domestic sheep and dying. This will likely lead to 14 permits for grazing terminated in Summit County.

Stop the presses… the fossil fuel industry Utah Wool Grower’s Association says there is no scientific proof of this happening. Yet, the National Forest Service seems to think this is real. If this were global warming would I trust the oil industry or would I look at the research? A recent study out of the University of Washington points to domestic sheep as the cause of outbreaks in the western U.S.

The Utah Wool Grower’s Association is asking the Summit County Council to take a position in the fight, expend personnel time, and likely help them fight the issue to allow grazing to continue.

While we understand that the Wool Grower’s Association’s job is to promote sheep, this shouldn’t be at the expense of endangering other wildlife.  Parkrag wants all sheep, big horn and domestic to live their life to the fullest.  However, just because it impacts sheep farmers, the citizens of Summit County shouldn’t throw caution AND SCIENCE to the wind and harm the big horn sheep.  As stewards of the land, it is our job to protect our wildlife, even if it may have uncomfortable consequences.