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May 18, 2022 News » Cover Story

Summer Guide 

EAT. DRINK. STAY. PLAY

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DEREK CARLISLE
  • Derek Carlisle

Last year, City Weekly's annual Summer Guide didn't appear until July—a recognition that, like everything else rolling into Year 2 of COVID life, things weren't quite normal yet. While we're not remotely pretending that "normal" now means what it did circa 2019, it's at least ... well, better.

So while variants still circulate, most of us are doing more circulating, as well. And as this drizzly Utah spring creeps into a sizzling Utah summer, you might be ready to do more of the things that you haven't been doing as much of for a while. Like having unapologetic fun, for instance.

The 2022 City Weekly Summer Guide is, we hope, a reminder of all the ways it's possible to enjoy what Utah has to offer when the snow isn't falling and the temperatures aren't chilling. We'll guide you toward off-the-beaten-track road-trip attractions, and maybe offer some suggestions on where to eat while you're farther from home.

We'll remind you of the unique pleasures of outdoor theater, picnics and farmers' markets. If you haven't been in a crowd around other people for a while, we'll gently remind you of how to enjoy your outdoor shows while being a good neighbor.

And, of course, we have you covered with the calendars you need to plan musical, artistic and foodie enjoyment throughout the summer months.

We invite you all to stay safe, stay healthy and find your favorite way to embrace this time in the sun. May we all appreciate it just a little bit more these days.

Scott Renshaw
Arts & Entertainment Editor

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Little City hosts neighborhood - events in the Granary District. - DAN RICHARDS
  • Dan Richards
  • Little City hosts neighborhood events in the Granary District.

Open Air Affair
Pop-up markets and new development fuel SLC's evolution into an "18-hour" city.
By Benjamin Wood

Salt Lake City's buzz is poised to bounce back in a big way this summer—and not just because of residents' social lives being throttled by a global pandemic for more than two years.

As traditional summer attractions like the Downtown and Liberty Park farmers markets—plus new attractions like Open Streets on Main, the Granary District's Little City and the west side's International Market—return to pre-COVID protocols, they also are poised to draw attendees from a rapidly urbanizing housing market that sees more people living in more parts of the city, who are looking for more things to do.

"One of the things that's really important to us—and I think to many looking at downtown—is transitioning from what we call a '12-hour city' to an '18-hour city,' which means it's vibrant for longer periods of time during the day," said Jessica Thesing, urban affairs director for the Downtown Alliance. "We see a lot of new residential development happening and, with more people on the street, it's safer, because you have more activity, people doing just everyday things and using downtown as the fabric for that activity."

An early test of Salt Lake's summer scene arrived on May 7 with the relaunch of Little City in a new space at 349 W. 700 South. In 2019 and 2021, Little City consisted of a weekly makeshift beer garden and micro-retail space built from shipping containers on the shoulder of 400 West. But for 2022 and—potentially—beyond, Little City has partnered with developer BCG Holdings to turn a dilapidated, street art-bedecked warehouse near Kilby Court into an urban event space.

"The plan right now, at least currently, is to do fewer but larger events," said Little City co-founder Michael Yount. "We've always intended to be somewhere for a few years and kind of reinvent what we're doing in some way. This gave us that chance without having to suddenly buy 10 more [shipping] containers."

The new Little City includes space for food trucks, live art performances, yard games like cornhole and, now, a full bar.

"We've never done that before—it's always been beer and seltzer," Yount said. "Because we're enclosed, we'll be able to have drinks in the full 8,000 square feet."

BCG spokeswoman Britney Helmers acknowledged the economic pressure to flip a property like the Little City space. But the cultivation of urban gathering areas is part of ensuring the success of neighborhoods like Granary, she said, where dormant industrial structures are being retrofitted for housing and retail.

In addition to hosting Little City (next scheduled for June 25), the space will be available for private events—at least one wedding is already scheduled, Helmers said—and will complement BCG's adjacent residential projects at the historic Utah Pickle and Hyde buildings and a planned renovation of old Ed's Place, from which Little City currently draws its power supply.

"There's going to be growth—we can't stop that. But how do you blend the growth with the local aspect? How do you blend modern with the grit?" Helmers said. "Starting local supports all the infrastructure. Let's start small, let's build on what Little City started, and then let's go bigger."

Downtown Farmers Market at Pioneer Park - COURTESY DOWNTOWN ALLIANCE
  • Courtesy Downtown Alliance
  • Downtown Farmers Market at Pioneer Park

Also going bigger this year is the Saturday morning Downtown Farmers Market at Pioneer Park, which returns to full hours and offerings after years of slimmed-down operations due to the COVID pandemic.

"We will have the full arts and crafts market, we will have our bike valet back, we will have the food fairway," said Alison Einerson, executive director of Urban Food Connections of Utah, which operates the market. "And after two years of breaks, we're also doing a kick-off party again.

Einerson said organizers were encouraged by the continued support for local growers during the pandemic and anticipate 2022 being something of a banner year. She emphasized that the Downtown market—which runs weekly on Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., from June 4 to Oct. 22—has a statewide economic impact that supports smaller, independent agricultural operations.

"These farmers come from all across the state, and they rely on direct-to-consumer sales," Einerson said. "If they have a place to sell, if they have a reliable income source, they can stay on that land and not have to sell out."

This year will also see the Liberty Park Market formally taken under the wing of Urban Food Connections of Utah. The smaller, neighborhood-focused event was previously run by volunteers through the local community council, which reached out to Downtown market organizers for help during the pandemic.

"Just like with everything else, when COVID hit they lost a lot of vendors," Einerson said. "They lost a lot of patrons."

Einerson says the Liberty event will be moved to Thursday evenings (from Fridays) to avoid conflicts with Saturday's Downtown Farmers Market. It runs from June 16 to Sept. 29, and more information for both markets can be found at slcfarmersmarket.com.

"The vendor list for that is looking really good," Einerson said. "It's going to be bigger, it's going to have more produce."

After years of discussion, a brand-new International Market will debut at the Utah State Fairpark this year on May 28, with additional markets scheduled roughly monthly (except September, when the Utah State Fair is held) through Oct. 29. The market will be held in the evenings—all scheduled dates are on Saturdays—and will include culturally diverse food, art, entertainment and an "international" beer garden.

"We have five dates set," said Nicki Claeys, the Fairpark's programs and sponsorship director. "Eventually, the plan is to expand into being a full-time market. We're excited because it will really represent the west side."

Claeys said the market is part of a broader effort to more effectively utilize the fairgrounds year-round. Recent years have seen the reconstruction and expansion of the Days of '47 Arena and the addition of a competition-caliber state park near the Driver License Office (located on the fairgrounds), and updates to the Fairpark master plan are expected in the coming weeks.

The International Market primarily will be housed in one of the historic barns along North Temple, with indoor and outdoor entertainment and food trucks available nearby.

A new pedestrian entrance near the Trax Fairpark station has also been constructed for easy access to the grounds. "Public transit will be ideal to get in," Claeys said. More information is available at slcinternationalmarket.com.

Entertainers wow the crowd during Open Streets on Main. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Entertainers wow the crowd during Open Streets on Main.

Main Street will again get an open-air market makeover with the return of Open Streets, a pilot that sees the downtown thoroughfare closed to vehicle traffic and converted into a pedestrian promenade on summer weekends, from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

But new this year, Open Streets will include the full weekend from Friday to Sunday in place of the Thursday-Saturday schedule of the past two years.

The removal of cars from the roadway—from South Temple to 400 South, with the exception of the southbound 300 block by the Moss Courthouse and not affecting through-streets—allows businesses to capitalize on sidewalk space by erecting or extending patios, or providing ground for pop-up bodegas and buskers.

"The businesses wanted to take advantage of Sunday and the brunch crowd," said Thesing, of the Downtown Alliance. "We'll be putting money in the hands of artists to show up and use the street as their venue."

Thesing said that Open Streets started as an economic intervention. Downtown Main Street has long struggled to maintain vibrancy in the evenings when primarily office-based highrises in the city center empty of workers at quitting time. But that challenge was exacerbated when even daytime activity cratered as work went remote during the pandemic.

"We're a 12-hour city," Thesing said. "When the office buildings closed down and people decided not to—or couldn't— come to work, downtown was empty."

Both anecdotal and quantified reports suggest that the Open Streets project was a success, boosting revenue at Main Street businesses, in some cases over and above pre-pandemic levels.

With COVID restrictions increasingly in the rear-view mirror, large events returning to Gallivan Center and downtown's performance venues, and a pipeline of new apartments and condominiums opening their doors, organizers say 2022 could see an even greater demonstration of Main Streets' pedestrian potential.

Long-term, there is discussion of permanently closing Main Street to cars, as cities like Denver and New York have done to great success. But for the time being, Thesing said, Open Streets is an invitation to spend weekends in the heart of Salt Lake City and to imagine what the future of downtown could be.

"The main goal was economic recovery. Reimagining Main Street is a part of that, but it isn't a street party. It's for everyone," Thesing said. "It's not just for people who want to go to a bar. It's for families who want to feel safe downtown and enjoy the outdoors. This is an outlet for that."

How, then, will residents know when an "18-hour" Salt Lake City has been achieved? "The success metric is people doing people things on the street," Thesing said. "I don't know if there's a better way to put it."

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