Policing parties helps keep Sundance sedate

Published: Monday, Jan. 19 2009 3:21 a.m. MST

Park City Police Chief Wade Carpenter laughs with a festival attendee on Main Street Sunday.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

PARK CITY — No matter how exclusive the party is, the doors to the club will always open to a man sporting a gun and a police badge.

The Sundance Film Festival is in full swing, and with it are the private parties and concerts. The Park City Police Department is also out in force to make sure the festival participants, filmmakers, fans, stargazers and celebrities party safely.

"Our big thing is we want to make sure everyone stays safe," said Park City Police Chief Wade Carpenter.

Saturday is the biggest party night of the festival, with all of the hospitality lounges hosting private events. The bars are also stuffed, and hot-spot clubs like Harry O's had people waiting in the streets to get in.

Young women in short skirts shivered in the cold as stars like Cuba Gooding Jr. and Tom Arnold were escorted in.

Anecdotally, officers here said this year's Sundance Film Festival has been more sedate. There have been noticeably fewer hospitality lounges and fewer people trudging up and down Main Street.

"I've worked Sundance for 11 years now and they have steadily grown since the first one — except for this year," said Park City Police Sgt. Darwin Little.

When you ask why, everyone blames the poor economy. But that's not to say those that are here aren't having a good time. The parties are in full swing and the police are out in force. Officers from other agencies have been drafted to help with traffic patrol, work security at film premieres and solve problems as they pop up.

As the night wears on, the incidents start climbing.

"Complainant advises there's a party and taxis are pulling into private driveways and keeping them awake," a dispatcher announced over the police radio.

On King Road, Little pulled up to a house where a private party was under way. Paris Hilton was reportedly there. Cars were parked all over the tiny street, making it difficult to maneuver. Little found the party's host, and minutes later people were heading to move their BMWs and SUVs.

"I told him if he doesn't move all these vehicles I'm going to have them towed," Little said as he left the party, headed to another call.

On Saturday, police had a pair of concerns. Hip-hop star Lil' Wayne was rumored to be in town for his film premiering at the Eccles Theatre. At a party at Harry O's, rapper T.I. was performing.

"I hear it's his last concert before he goes (to jail)," Little said.

Officers had concerns the shows would draw members of rival gangs, but Lil' Wayne was a no-show and T.I.'s concert was relatively quiet.

As he stands outside Harry O's, a doorman from outside one of the parties flags down officers. A woman is standing stoically outside without a coat on. She appears to be severely intoxicated, although she disputes that.

"I'm fine. I really am," she says as officers escort her to paramedics they summoned on Swede Alley.

By midnight, Main Street has become more crowded as the parties swell. Officers are trying to keep people inside the barricades and out of traffic. This year, police closed off a large portion of Park City's historic Main Street to parking. It is something that has already reduced the congestion and helped get emergency responders into an area faster.

Throughout the night, officers will venture into the parties to do crowd counts. Carpenter and Capt. Phil Kirk ventured into the Sky Lodge to check on a party, moving quickly through the packed dance floor.

"Oooh, are you here to arrest me?" a young woman said flirtatiously to Kirk as he walked past her.

"We're making sure it's not too overcrowded and violating fire codes," Kirk said. "Also underage drinkers."

Kyle Mutcher, a bouncer outside Harry O's, praised the police officers.

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