Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Walk in the Park

Park City, Utah, that is.

Our strategy: Get an early start for the 60-mile drive from our RV site in North Salt Lake so that we can beat the horde of daily visitors to this city that had served as one of the venues during the 2002 Winter Olympics. On the edge of town was this reminder of those games.

Note: We have learned that Utah's food culture has generated more than 100 souvenir Olympic food pins. It began with a bowl of glistening cubes of green gelatin. In 1998, about 5,000 green gelatin food pins were released, retailing for $7. Soon, they took on a Beanie Baby-like mystique. Now they're worth $150 each, if you can get your hands on one. In addition, cookbooks were produced to share in such stereotypical delights as Green Jell-O with Pineapple and Cottage Cheese, Fry Sauce and Funeral Potatoes.

Back to our plan. The strategy was effective--in part.

We arrived mid-morning and had our choice of parking spots in a large lot convenient to the town's main street. We had beaten the crowds. It was going to be a good day.

We began our walk around town, pleased that we could take photographs of the town without interfering with the sidewalk traffic flow.

But, as the saying goes; "It was quiet . . . , too quiet."

It seems that we had not only beaten the other visitors, but we had beaten the merchants that morning. Signs in shop windows read: "Open at 11:00," or "Hours -- Noon to 8:00 pm."

We had planned to spend only the morning in Park City, so we had to content ourselves with views of the buildings' exteriors.

The history of Park City begins with the discovery of silver. The first recorded claim of the Park City Mining District was the Young American lode in December 1869. By the 1870s, production in that area had begun, perpetuated by the discovery of a large vein of silver ore in what would become the Ontario Mine. In its heyday, it was considered the greatest silver mine in the world.

By the 1880s, many prospectors had either sent for their families or were bringing them along, building houses and establishing schools.

Although Park City was a tremendously successful mining town, the history of the city is marked with difficult times. Park City suffered terrible fires in 1882 and then again in 1885. However, the worst disaster came on June 19, 1898. A horrible fire raged through the Park City commercial district.

It was the greatest fire in the history of Utah. Main Street was destroyed. Losses were estimated at over one million dollars. Approximately 200 business houses and dwellings perished. The city was left in ruins.

One of the buildings on Main Street that survived was the 1895 Telephone Building, now the Purple Sage restaurant.

But when we saw the Egyptian Theatre (partially hidden by a parked re-cycling truck), we knew we wanted to see the interior.

A woman exited the theatre, "Is it possible to take photos of the interior?" I asked.

"Well, I think so, but I have no idea where the light panel is to turn on the lights. Someone should be here within the next half hour. It's really a beautiful theatre--one of about 10 like it in the country," she answered.

Well, we waited over half an hour with no luck. Phone calls to the offices of three members of the staff were unsuccessful. So, it is only these exterior photo that I have. (It would be 12 days before anyone from the Mary G. Steiner Egyptian Theatre would return my calls.)

Today's residents may laugh at the irony that Park City was once listed on the national list of historic "ghost towns."

In 1996, Park City made another list. The town was honored in a book entitled "Top 100 Small Towns for Art in America."

The free trolley provides a convenient ride along Main Street.

The art community in Park City is thriving.

This sculpture is at the main intersection in the center of the city. In addition to about two dozen galleries, the city's Arts Council's work complements the recreational activities of the area.

A variety of performing arts and artistic endeavors are provided through the Park City Art Festival, the Summit Institute for the Arts and Humanities (classical and modern dance), the Park City Film Series (international independent films throughout the year), and each January, filmmakers from all over the country convene for North America's premiere independent film competition at Robert Redford's Sundance Film Festival.

Along Main Street are artistic products ranging from serious sculptures

to some off-beat presenta-tions.

This sculpture garden elicited some interest. The lawn chair seemed poised to host a viewer of the sculpture (right) on the stage. Unoccupied, the chair seemed to be an equally interesting piece of artwork.

Even the colors of the city's buildings and shops and their furnishings convey the spirit and vitality of the city.

If only we had been able to see the interior of the Egyptian Theatre.

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