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Tents anchor the arts

October 1st, 2007 / By: / Project Briefs

Four years ago, microburst winds in Salt Lake City swept through the Utah Arts Festival.

“A lot of artists lost everything,” recalls Ann Gust, who has coordinated the annual June event for the last 10 years as a city contractor. Those artists had provided their own tents and held them in place—until wind intervened—with weighted milk jugs. Since then, the rules have changed.

“We provide concrete weights for them,” Gust says. “It has worked out marvelously. The weights are there when they get there.”

The four-day festival, which attracts crowds of more than 75,000, involves about 300 tents over three city blocks for more than 100 artists, three performance stages, food vendors, seating, sponsors and volunteers. While 40-by-40-foot tents must be staked, the city wanted the artists’ tents, which are smaller, to be anchored by 400-pound water barrels, even on park lawns. “We only have 2 feet between artists’ tents, so there really isn’t enough room for a water barrel,” Gust says. So, she worked with city officials to alternatively use 200-pound concrete weights (a total of 800 pounds per tent).

Because the festival’s former tent supplier went out of business, Gust was able to call in a vendor for the 2007 festival that she has worked with on other events for the past five years: Las Vegas Party Tents & Rentals in Las Vegas, Nev.

“I just find that their honesty and integrity, training, staff, on-time delivery and quality of equipment are absolutely wonderful,” Gust says. “They stay on the site with us. We are a team.” She also works closely with the company in gathering engineering calculations, such as wind and snow loads. “Then I go sit down with the Salt Lake City Fire Department. I go over the layout, how long the tents will be standing, what they will be used for, and if there will be tables and chairs in them.”

After the six-day setup in downtown Salt Lake City, fire officials visit the site at 4 p.m. the day before the festival for a final inspection: looking for permits, smoke detectors, no-smoking signs, fire extinguishers and exit signs for enclosed tents.

Gust maintains a close rapport with city and fire officials so she can check with them for any changes in temporary structure codes; she also reviews the International Fire Code online. According to that code, permits are required for canopies covering 200 square feet or more and tents (at least one sidewall) covering 400 square feet or more. If artists bring their own structure (about half do), they are responsible for dealing with the fire department and getting any necessary permits.

In addition to her own five staff members, Gust counts among her team nine foremen sent to the site by Las Vegas Party Tents & Rentals. “A lot of times you don’t find that support,” Gust says. “I can’t say enough good things about them.”

Still, Gust has her hands full. “I’m the first on site and the last one to leave.”

Janice Kleinschmidt is a freelance writer and editor based in Palm Springs, Calif.

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