Those who haven't experienced it might not realize that there isn't just one Sundance Film Festival. There's the part that's seeing movies in Park City, which in itself is different from the part that's seeing movies in Salt Lake City. There's the Sundance that's a film industry gathering, and the Sundance that's a marketplace for new talent. And then there's the Sundance that is Park City's Main Street—and even more specifically, there's the Sundance that is Park City's Main Street on the festival's opening weekend.
Because Main Street is the place to be once night falls—with the best restaurants reserved for private parties, and every available club and storefront turned into the location for a party—the densely-packed mountain town concentrates its visitors even more densely on this one tiny two-lane artery. As lovely as it would be to imagine that people could just take advantage of the free shuttles, Very Important People need their own very important transportation, which means that Main Street turns into a parking lot. Even considering that many of these folks are from Southern California, where taillights are a fact of life, the driving gets aggressive bordering on homicidal; even the pedestrians get weirdly aggro, like the dude I heart saying to a buddy, "God all this traffic. It just makes me wanna fuck something." Fortunately, there was occasional balance to such people, like the driver who noticed that a pedestrian crossing the street between cars had dropped a glove, and leaned out the window to let her know. I hoped that the karma of the Sundance gods would be with him that night.
While the visitors turn the place into maelstrom of furry boots and entitlement, the locals do their best to make the most of it—which often involves figuring out how to cash in. Parking garages waved their capitalist flags by charging what the market would bear, which could mean $40 for a night. On the walk between Main Street and the Library Theater venue on Park Avenue, a pair of youngsters had set up a table in the fine tradition of American school-age entrepreneurs everywhere—except instead of selling 25-cent cups of lemonade, they were selling $4 cups of coffee. Then there was Park City real estate agent/musician Jimmy Eaton, who was giving away coffee and hot chocolate while performing songs on his guitar, including a new original tune about the history of his town called "Hallow Park City." Folks ducked in from the packed sidewalks for a warm beverage and an up-close-and-personal performance, a rare moment of one-on-one humanity that was possible away from the clogged sidewalks.
Jimmy Eaton performs on Park City's Main Street on Friday night.
Once Monday rolls around, many of the industry bigshots head back to the coasts, and Main Street becomes merely challenging to navigate instead of impossible. It's fascinating for those of us who aren't part of that world to see it shoved into a few blocks of a resort town straining under the weight of becoming, for a couple of days, the hottest spot for the coolest cats.