At any time of year Park City, Utah seem like it’s having an arts festival, with galleries lining its main street and a choice of performances in the restored Egyptian Theatre. But in early August each summer the activity intensifies with three days of back-to-back events that bring top artists and craftspeople from all over the continent to display and sell their work. Simultaneously, the hills are alive with music as the Utah Symphony Orchestra performs in the natural amphitheater on the lower slopes of Deer Valley Resort.
It seemed a little weird at first, to be savoring a delectable basket dinner on the grassy slope where we had only a few months before stepped out of our skis to head for the warmth of a blazing fireplace in the base lodge. The ski racks were gone with the snow, in their place a stage from which the outstanding Utah Symphony Orchestra filled the evening air with a full-length concert.
After intermission, as darkness fell and the stars winked overhead, they played the 1812 overture, climaxed by the customary cannon fire from the slope above. It was literally a bang-up ending to a perfect summer evening.
This and several other concerts – both here and in smaller indoor venues –are part of the Utah Symphony/Utah Opera Deer Valley Music Festival, whose dates conveniently overlap the Kimball Arts Festival. Programs vary each year, but the 1812 Overture is a well-loved annual tradition.
The Kimball Arts Festival is only one of many programs of the Kimball Art Center, a striking contemporary building in the center of town, where we stopped in at the gala preview to their annual art auction. The festival brings together more than 200 artists who show works in all media – from paintings and fine-art photography to exquisite blown glass and jewelry -- in two rows of white festival tents that turn the steep main street into an open-air gallery. At one end were life-sized metal sculptures of giraffes, moose and giant cactus; at the other a man was playing his handcrafted Australian didgeridoos.
This, plus live bands in free concerts, art films from the Sundance festival (another arts extravaganza that takes place here in the winter), gallery strolls and exhibitions in every possible local venue left us little time for the other things to do in Park City.
So we stayed on a couple of days to play tourist and to hike mountain trails and feast our eyes on the spectacular mountain views. The chair-lifts and gondolas operate in the summer to give access to upper trails and for casual sightseeing -- at The Canyons Resort we rode the Flight of The Canyons gondola right over a canyon, quite a breath-stopper. The mountain views from the upper slopes are spectacular, as was lunch at Royal Street Café, located at mid-mountain of Deer Valley Resort.
We also took an excellent one-hour (and only $5) tour of Main Street with Historic Walking Tours, which combined with a spin through the new Park City Museum showed us that this is more than just a resort town with a perfect setting. Its history as a silver mining town is rich – and spicy. Inside the museum, along with a fully restored Concord Coach, is a multi-story cut-away model of a working silver mine.
Normally we stay with high-school friends who have conveniently chosen Park City as home, but this time we opted to stay right in the middle of the festival, in a luxury apartment we found through Park City Lodging (www.parkcitylodging.com), 800-348-6759). When we stepped out of the manicured grounds we were at the beginning of the traffic-free main street filled with artists’ tents.
All this walking around required a restful break, so I stopped into Mountain Body Herbal Cosmetic Deli & Spa on Main Street (www.mountainbody.com) and browsed through their counters of dreamy lotions and soothing creams. After sampling a couple, I decided to really get luxurious, with a deliciously relaxing Hungarian facial.
I took my new face to dinner that night at Jean Louis Restaurant (www.jeanlouisrestaurant.com), where I fed it a better steak frites than I’ve ever had in France. But all the Pork City restaurants will have to wait for another article.