Robert Redford created the Sundance Film Festival, which runs from January 22 to February 1, to showcase unknown filmmakers. Today, it acts more like school recess for the one percent. The Sundance Kid does not hide the fact that he’d love to put the parading, gilded horse out of its misery, but Park City is unwilling to relent for obvious financial reasons.
If you are one of the 99-percent folks—the poor ones with holes in their Patagucci jeans—you’re in luck. Since the festival was originally designed for paupers, there are still plenty of ways to make the most of your time in Park City.
Reservations fill up quickly and prices can be high at best, and completely out of range the rest of the time. If you’re in need of thrifty sustenance, pop into Back Door Delicatessen or Main Street Deli. It’s not lobster or foie gras, but you’ll get a nice beer and an impeccable sandwich. For those willing to travel out, there are several fast food choices at the Kimball Junction exit, approximately seven miles away from Main Street.
Boutique companies love to showcase their products. It’s cheaper to set up their samples on the bustling street than it is to rent an over-priced office the size of a Cracker Jack box. One walk down Main Street at midday could grant a pauper a weeklong supply of handcrafted lip balm, a locally roasted coffee and a free ticket to the community theater’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar.
There are a variety of packages for tickets to the festival but most of them are incredibly expensive and honestly, it’s impossible to see several movies. It’s more economical to choose two films and waitlist the tickets. It does require standing in line, sometimes in the freezing cold, and tickets aren’t guaranteed at the window. However, that circumstance is so rare that it doesn’t warrant worry.
Utahns (that’s what they call themselves) do not use Craigslist; they use KSL the local news site. Many Park City homeowners despise the crowds that accompany the festival so they opt out for the sunny shores of SoCal while they rent their rooms for reasonable rates. Present yourself as a professional and responsible pauper and, depending on the renter, you may score a clean spot with great amenities.
If you drive, spend the twenty dollars a day for the convenience of the China Bridge Parking Garage You’ll save yourself a crowded trolley ride (the deck is right off Main Street) and you will also have a convenient place to store any food and drink items. And it’s a prime spot to take a nap after all that walking. (Note: The lot is CASH ONLY, no exceptions and no ATM on site.)
Redford has always made one stipulation about the festival: the shuttle remains free. There’s nothing worthwhile in Park City that can’t be comfortably trekked to from at least one of its stops. If you’re not keen on shelling out twenty bucks a day, then parking in the lots located right outside downtown is best. They range from free to $5, but they do fill up quickly.
The best way to make the most out of Sundance is to be open to opportunity and work. You never know who you’ll make laugh or what gig will score you tickets to a showing. The Marriott in Park City, has a volunteer hub in its lobby, and is almost always in need of extra hands for big events or small press junkets.
Why? Simple: kindness is incredibly rare. There are enough celebrities and tourists vying for sights and attention by grinding their teeth and shoving people out of their paths. Being pleasant is a guaranteed way to open doors and increase the chances of scoring some gratis accoutrements.
Regardless of the pomp and pageantry of the festival—and even if the Sundance Kid wants to shoot it down—the talent and innovation gathered here is palpable. While it’s still breathing, it’s one hell of an experience.
Joe’l Glover is a freelance writer based in Charlotte, N.C.