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Over 80K anticipated to attend popular Utah Arts Festival

By Carole Mikita | Posted - Jun 20th, 2013 @ 8:53pm

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SALT LAKE CITY — The dip in temperatures makes for great weather for the kick-off of Utah Arts Festival. Visual artists from throughout the country, food vendors, and music and dance groups are ready to go.

In its 37th year, organizers are expecting more than 80,000 to attend the four-day event to take in the sights, sounds and smells of one of the country's top ranked urban arts festivals. From the beginning, the Utah Arts Festival has unofficially kicked off summer in Salt Lake.

The festival will showcase 162 artists that have set up booths to display their creations. Forty-seven are Utahns and 62 of them are first-timers in the festival.

History of the Utah Arts Festival

First called the Salt Lake Festival of the Arts, it began in 1977 on Main Street.

"We had a parachute squad, literally, who came down and strung the wires and hung the parachutes over the main stage, which was right, smack, in the middle of Main Street," said Margaret Smoot, Festival Founding Chair.

The festival moved to Abravanel Hall plaza in 1979. It had an original musical production and organizers worried about the crowds.

"I used to always wonder if anybody was going to come. I used to have nightmares that no one was going to come," said Olivette Trotter, Utah Arts Festival director.

The next location was the new Triad Center in 1984. Artists created a giant sandcastle at the entrance. But in 1985, the highly- promoted helium balloons called Skyart deflated.

Fences and an admissions fees greeted visitors in 1986 and a community birthday cake celebrating 10 years. A windstorm toppled some of the scaffolding and damaged some artists booths in 1992.

In 2003, the festival moved to its fifth location, Library Square, a move that suited everyone.

2011 brought a record crowd of more than 90,000 and a national ranking in the top 15 arts festivals in the country.

"People want to come to this festival, artists want to participate at this festival and performers want to come here and perform, so, I think our reputation has only grown, in a good way," said Lisa Sewell, executive director of the festival.

The Utah Arts Festival is not only fun but good for business.

"It certainly has a direct financial benefit to city government because of the sales tax that gets generated," said Bob Farrington, Economic Development Director for Salt Lake City.

A gentle sound and shimmer come from some up-cycled aluminum can kinetic mosaics.

"Everybody knows what an aluminum can is, they've had beer and soda so, that's why I think people like them," Hannah Dreiss from Comfort, Texas.

The mixed media wall sculptures come from a festival veteran. He calls them art for brave living rooms and does well here. This is his 5th visit.

"When I think of an idea like a suitcase with clothing laid out to look like an American flag, I think 'Wow, that's kind of cool'. When someone buys it, I say, 'OK, I'm not the only one who thinks it's cool,'" said Roderick Stevens from Sierra Vista, Ariz.

There are plenty of lunch and dinner offerings that include a Philadelphia Filly Cheesteak, as seen on the Food Network, Peruvian grilled chicken, Thai cuisine and gyros at the Greek booth. People browse, eat, people watch and many come year after year.

"I moved here 15 years ago and I love it," said Salt Lake City resident Brandy Oliver. "I just feel like you see so many different people and so many different types of art, it's really fun. It's like a tradition every year."

Ogden resident Brianne Allen says she loves coming to the festival every year.

"It's a good feeling to see other people's expressions of their feelings," Allen said. "And I look forward to it every year."

Whether its young people are looking to check out the scene, families looking for a fun outing, or serious art buyers or music lovers, at the end of June in Salt Lake, it's simply the place to be.

The 11th annual Utah Arts Festival at Library Square will be kicking off the summer on Thursday, June 20 until Sunday June 23 from noon until 11 p.m. For more information, visit their website at


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