Zion Canyon Music Festival future
Image: zioncanyonmusicfestival.com

In terms of attendance and outside interest, the Zion Canyon Music Festival has been one of the most successful events for Springdale, Utah, the gateway community to Zion National Park. But after seven years of hosting the festival, the Town may be having second thoughts about continuing to participate in the event. On Wednesday, Oct. 14, the Springdale Town Council will discuss the future of Springdale’s participation in the festival. The meeting will take place at 5 p.m., and while the public is welcome, those who decide to attend the meeting only for this discussion should be aware that it’s number 11 on a very full agenda of business.

Concerns about the town’s risk and responsibility associated with the festival was the first issue Springdale’s Town Council considered in 2015. In the Jan. 5, 2015 Town Council meeting, Mayor Stan Smith started out a long and sometimes heated “open discussion” of the festival by warning participants that personal attacks during the discussion would not be tolerated.

Alex Pelton represented the Zion Canyon Music Festival Committee at the Jan. 5 meeting. He summarized the major concerns as being the liability for the Town of Springdale and the burden of staff time required by Springdale town employees. Rick Wixom, the Springdale town manager, said that as long as the festival is held on town property, the town would retain liability for incidents that happen as a result of the festival “no matter what.”

After the airing of concerns on Jan. 5, the Springdale Town Council voted for a realignment of Springdale’s responsibility for the festival in their next meeting on Jan. 14. The motion that was approved called for much greater accountability for the use of Springdale staff time in putting on the festival. The Council also unanimously approved an amendment by Mark Chambers that mandated transition to a separate organization formed to take over the festival “at the end of the 2015 Music Festival.”

The 2015 Zion Canyon Music Festival was held on Sept. 25 and 26, and following the conclusion of the festival, the same concerns raised at the January meetings were still the ones that Springdale residents have about the festival. These concerns were aired once again during the “Meet the Candidates” night held Sept. 29 in the Springdale Town Hall. When the meeting was opened to questions from the audience, the future of the music festival was the first one that people wanted to hear about. All of the candidates running for two open seats on the Council agreed that they would like to see the festival continued but all also agreed that the exposure of the town to risk and expense should be reduced. Town Council candidate Lisa Zumpft said that she was in favor of spending “some” money on the festival but that much better records of the burden the festival places on town staff should be kept.

Chambers, speaking at the Meet the Candidates night as a candidate for the next Springdale Town Council, said that due to his experience in the management of events like this before moving to Springdale, he was nervous when looking at the finances of the festival.

“I don’t think it’s responsible for a town or municipality to have a festival where all the funds are based on liquor sales where you live at the top of a canyon and people drive home,” Chambers said.

Chambers went on to point out that the festival was not just a small event.

“It’s a big event,” he said, “and the core functions of the town should come first.”

Chambers said he was in favor of the continuation of the festival but that he didn’t think that Springdale should be the “actual presenter” of the festival. At this meeting, he didn’t remind attendees that the Springdale Town Council had already voted in January to require that a separate organization take over the festival due to his own motion.

Candidate Mike Alltucker also spoke on the topic during the meeting. He said that because he was a member of the Springdale Town Council that voted to realign the relationship with the festival, he thought he was “going to get fire bombed” when he attended the festival this year. However, he said that he was both pleased and surprised to see that even after Springdale staff time was limited this time, volunteers appeared to be able to pull off a successful event. Alltucker said he agreed with Chambers that emphasis still needed to shift away from town staff to some other entity.

To gather input from both Springdale and others interested in the festival, a five question survey was put together and has been heavily advertised by multiple websites including one devoted to the festival, a Facebook page, and Springdale’s own website that will be considered by the Springdale Town Council as they make their decision.