Is the Future of Park Silly Sunday Market at Risk?

When did this town get so serious? Seriously. Do people think Park City transformed from a post-silver-mining backwater because of some faux polished veneer of exclusivity and golden-year serenity? No matter how overused the word “luxury” is or how curmudgeonly people act, this town is never going to be Aspen or Naples. Park City became what it did because of personality and identity derived from the kind of things that make a place distinct and memorable. The kind of things like the Park Silly Sunday Market. That hasn’t stopped some folks from trying to get rid of it.

The Silly Market has been a Main Street institution for 16 years. As evinced by its name, it’s an eclectic mix of live music, food carts and local vendors. 

Photos courtesy park silly market

Organizers are trying to secure a new long-term contract with Park City but will operate for 2023 under a temporary one-year agreement. To many long-time locals and visitors, the idea of eliminating the Silly Market is preposterous. However, for a vocal subset of Old Town business owners and homeowners the boisterous shenanigans are a business-draining, crowded nuisance.

Those opposing the Silly Market generally fall into two camps, easily identified by public comments submitted during a November 2022 Park City Council Meeting. The first group’s argument essentially boils down to a Grinch-ey sentiment:  “Oh, the noise, the noise, noise, noise, noise!” The second camp comes largely from Main Street merchants who argue the hordes of people descending onto Main Street to attend the Silly Market don’t actually benefit local businesses, because, as one business owner euphemistically said, the event “keeps many of the higher end homeowners and visitors away.”

(Outside of events like the Silly Market, I’d argue Main Street has been shedding most things non-higher-end-homeowner-and-visitor-related for years now.) But Historic Park City Alliance members opinions were overwhelmingly against the Park Silly Market according to a recent a survey in which 63 percent of respondents favored eliminating it. Their general sentiment was that the Silly Market is a drag on Sunday business

However, single day sales for a portion of businesses doesn’t tell the whole story of a Park City’s economy say Silly Market leaders (who are very serious). 

“We’re fostering businesses that become cornerstones in the community,” Kate McChesney, Silly Market Executive Director says. “Places like Nosh, Freshie’s and Sammy’s all got started here with an opportunity to build a footprint without a huge investment up front.”

Photos courtesy park silly market

Some have suggested changes to the Silly Market, including its location and the day of the week, both of which would fundamentally alter its identity. A Wednesday Silly Parking Lot Market doesn’t have quite the same appeal, especially for local families who have jobs and kids in school. “We’ve made some concessions for the upcoming year in good faith,” McChesney says. “We’re doing 10 dates as opposed to 14, starting music later, at 1 p.m., for noise reduction and working to make people in the community feel heard. But we’re not ready to move or change the day.”

Park City will remain Silly for the upcoming year. But until a long-term contract is secured, we’ll be left wondering why the town has gotten so darn serious.  

The Park Silly Sunday Market Impact 

Each Silly Sunday somewhere in the neighborhood of 15,000 people flock to Main Street, totaling around 200,000 people per season. It’s difficult to imagine that isn’t helpful to Main Street businesses, but some merchants claim the benefit is seen by bars and restaurants while Sunday sales tank for everyone else. There’s no publicly available reliable data with which to cast judgment, so we’re left with assumptions about whether throngs of visitors or tranquil streets are preferable.  

For Park Silly 2023 dates visit parksillysundaymarket.com


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Tony Gill
Tony Gillhttps://www.saltlakemagazine.com/
Tony Gill is the outdoor and Park City editor for Salt Lake Magazine and previously toiled as editor-in-chief of Telemark Skier Magazine. Most of his time ignoring emails is spent aboard an under-geared single-speed on the trails above his home.

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