Seriously Silly: The Park Silly Sunday Market
Every summer Sunday, Historic Main Street turns into a bustling, unusual spectacle known as the Park Silly Sunday Market. One of Park City’s best known and most spectacular events, this unusual collection of artists, vendors, performers, and restaurants brings visitors from all over the world. We spoke with Kimberly Kuehn and Kate McChesney, the CEO/founder and executive director of the Silly Market, respectively, about this crazy weekly bazaar.
All Seasons Resort Lodging [ASRL]: We’ll start with the basics. Park Silly Sunday market is a unique institution, where did it come from?
Kimberly: It was originated in 2006, and it was just something that we wanted to really hype up Main Street. The economy was really bad back then, so we wanted to give people the opportunity to sell their hobbies, enjoy a free event on main street, and create commotion on Main Street for the Main Street merchants. So we took community elements such as nonprofits, musicians, sustainability advocacy, and we put them all together on the street for everybody in park city. That eventually attracted visitors and tourists, because we’re a pretty colorful community when it comes to our hobbies and our interest in art. We’re definitely a slice of heaven in the state of Utah. We’re a little bit quirky, a little bit more unique than the average community. It’s a nice little staycation day for people in Utah. That right there, along with the organic farmers market, the organic assortment of product that we have, which we spent a lot of time on and have a lot of pride in. So we have importers, organic farmers, photographers, jewelers, and we juggle those categories to make our market a really great, unique place. Never the same, and unique every week.
ASRL: As far as unique every week, what was the very first Sunday like compared to last Sunday?
Kimberly: Our beer garden had one picnic table, and now we have 25-50 tables. I don’t even know. Maybe 30 picnic tables? We had 40 vendors, and now we have about 200. When we started, we were really inviting people of the community to get up onstage, a stepping-stone for people to get up onstage that really never played music in front of an audience. Now we book our music before January. And that’s about 100 bands per season. But we are still keeping the mission in place, and keeping those opportunities open. We never want to say no. We want to open that door to everybody and give everyone an opportunity. So if we have 200 spaces on the street, we want make sure that everyone gets an opportunity. But you do have to meet the deadlines for the applications.
ASRL: What’s the furthest someone has come from to visit the festival?
Kate: Australia, UK, New Zealand…
Kimberly: Groups will come into Salt Lake and then I’ll host them at the Silly Market. I had a really great group of Pakistani ladies that really shed a lot of light on me.
ASRL: How did some businesswomen from Pakistan decide to come to Park City?
Kimberly: They asked us, “How did you do this. As a woman, how did you start a business?” That’s what they came to America for, to study business and women. They were not allowed in their country, so they came here. It was really interesting. It was really neat to hear their stories. I still hear from them on Facebook.
ASRL: It really is very global then.
Kimberly: Yeah, we get visitors from all over. I’ve had translators at my hospitality booth. We’ve had a lot of people coming in with TV, magazines that are in all different languages. This summer, when we ask certain people how they heard about us, a lot of them are saying magazines, or the blog that TripAdvisor did about us when they were profiling the top 20 farmers markets in America. So, we’ve been nationally and internationally recognized now.
ASRL: There’s a lot that happens at the market. There’s obviously vendors, musicians, performers…of all those sorts of things, what’s the best part about the market for you, personally?
Kimberly: It’s a free event that you can walk through. You can see unique, one of a kind items. That’s the big kicker for me. That, and seeing performers that are different. You don’t go to a normal farmers market and see belly dancers and stilt walkers and people hanging from the bridges. It’s the experience of walking through and seeing all these different, unique items and performances. I think that’s why people come back. And when they do come back, it’s actually different. There’s never a market day that’s identical.