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Fans gather in Park City to stargaze at the Sundance Film Festival

Published: Saturday, Jan. 18 2014 5:40 p.m. MST

Christina Galvan, 10, tries to get an autograph from actor George Takei at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014.

Matt Gade, Deseret News

PARK CITY — Utahns and tourists are flocking to Park City for stargazing, but they aren't looking up in the sky.

The 30th annual Sundance Film Festival got underway Thursday and is drawing a host of celebrities and their fans. Dozens of celebrity seekers crowded the sidewalk Saturday morning, eager to get autographs and photos.

"We're here just stargazing, I guess, stalking celebrities," Sarah Napier said.

Napier, who said she's been attending the festival for 13 years, was with her boss' daughter, Jordan Granderath, who turned 13 Saturday and wanted to see rapper Lil Jon.

"You know their faces, but you don't always know their names," Napier said. "A lot of it is you follow around the autograph guys, and they know who everybody is."

While the number of A-listers has decreased, Napier said the celebrity-seeking crowds have intensified.

"When we do it, we're just very laid back. A lot of people … are screaming," she said. "It never used to be like this with people just blocking the sidewalk."

Enthusiastic fans gather on Main Street near the stairs leading to the Town Lift. Actors and big names frequent the spot but can also be seen walking up and down Main Street.

Stephanie Valdez and her family recently moved from Midvale to Orlando, Fla., but came back to Utah for the jersey retirement of former Jazz coach Jerry Sloan later this month and "to the see the stars" at the festival.

Valdez said she's hoping to see Mark Ruffalo from "The Avengers" and had a list in her backpack of celebs and their schedules.

She and her 8-year-old son, Sebastian, plan to be at the festival all week. Sebastian said he remembers coming a couple years ago and meeting Bradley Cooper, who picked him up and took a picture with him.

Some fans, such as James Beacham, have photos all organized and ready to go for the celebrities to sign. The 23-year-old from London has been working in the U.S. and decided to stay and attend the festival for a third time to "get some stuff signed, see some people, get some photos," he said.

Beacham said some people are rude, but mainly just the publicists. He said the nicest person he met last year was singer-songwriter Alicia Keys. This year, he's hoping to meet Michael C. Hall from "Dexter."

Perhaps the best-known celeb enthusiast at the festival is Scott "Skippy" Jessop. Now 36, Jessop has been "stargazing" for 11 years and was featured in a documentary called "Sundance Skippy."

Jessop said his festival experience costs him between $500 and $1,500 each year because of work missed and things he gives away. However, to him, it's worth it. Last year, he met musician Dave Grohl, who flew him out to Los Angeles to be on E! comedy/talk show "Chelsea Lately."

"Anytime you see security or paparazzi, you want to be standing by ... There’s the guy from 'The Sopranos!'" Jessop said, the sight of a celebrity preventing him from finishing his sentence.

Christina Galvan, 10, from Riverton, made friends with a paparazzo and has the autograph system down. She said a perk of being small is she's able to "scoot through" and get to the celebrities.

Christina revealed her tactical prowess when she interrupted herself mid-sentence and said, "Oh, hold on. I gotta go." After darting into a mass of photographers and publicists, she returned with actress Marisa Tomei's signature in hand.

"I got it!" she said.

"We collect them and save them and put them in a scrapbook. We’ve never sold any because we like them," Christina said. "We have books like these that are filled with autographs, probably more than 300."

Christina and her parents have attended the film festival for the past five years to meet famous people. This year, Christina's goal is to meet Selena Gomez. As of Saturday afternoon, she had seen actors John Lythgow and George Takei.

Takei, best known for playing Hikaru Sulu in "Star Trek," drew the most excitement Saturday morning.

"We are having a delirious time," Takei said of his experience at the festival while walking through the throngs of admirers.

Email: madbrown@deseretnews.com, Twitter: madeleine6

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