Festivals Should Be Free 

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The festival season is now in full swing, enjoyed by tens of thousands of festival-goers, and yet it appears unfair and excessive for organizers to charge entry fees. At many of these highly celebrated events, touted as “family-oriented,” every adult must pay a ticketed entry fee of $10, with the exception of young children.

These events should be free and open to the public. In Chicago, my former home town, many city-sponsored arts, music, and cultural events, held in downtown venues and ethnic communities, do not charge entry fees. It begs the question of why Salt Lake City politicos and festival organizers should see fit to impose entry fees, absent a ballot-box referendum.

It’s difficult to fathom why festival organizers are charging fees in a bleak economic market when many Utah families are struggling financially, losing jobs, or being impacted by shortening hours in the workplace. Given these harsh realities, many eager families opt out after factoring in fees for parking, food and beverages, to say nothing of prices for items sold by vendors.

If entry fees continue to be a mainstay at Utah events, I would recommend public hearings. Inevitably, conducting open hearings will compel Utah government leaders to hear and get feedback from a concerned constituency, bring public pressure on a potentially contentious issue in Salt Lake, and, hopefully, force the city to pitch in. In a fair and democratic society, and conservative state like Utah that promotes family values, these festivals should be about the business of staging free, successful, and fun-filled events, unencumbered by entry fees.

Jesus Garcia
Salt Lake City

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