Vendors who come to town during That Famous Preston Night Rodeo will be able to set up shop July 29-31 in Benson Park. Next year, they will be located elsewhere.
Just where is not so clear, said Kris Beckstead, rodeo chair. She took the concern to the Preston City Council on July 12 to find the council in a quandary as to where best to host the vendors without the park.
Space for parking is at the core of the problem for the city. With half of the businesses, with store fronts on State Street between Oneida and First South, supportive of the sidewalk sale being held in the parking lot between Benson Park and the alleyway, and the other half not, the city council held a long discussion on the pros and cons of using the parking lot, and finally determined to do so in a split vote.
The alley and parking lot accommodates about 150 vehicles, including four handicap stalls near the Franklin County Medical Center’s rehabilitation center.
Although the problem has been solved for 2021, a solution must be determined for future rodeo day sidewalk sales. Options explored by the council include using the above-mentioned parking lot, the empty lot on the west side of State Street in the middle of the 100 South block, spreading the vendors further north and south along State Street and hosting the sale at the City Park, east of the rodeo grounds.
Although the parking lot handles demand well during regular business hours, the extra demand for parking space during rodeo weekend easily fills the lot without part of it being used for vendor stands.
With the larger rodeo arena combined with the post-pandemic enthusiasm the public has demonstrated for attending events, demand for parking has only increased downtown.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has permitted use of the parking lots around its buildings near the grounds, and some private property owners sell parking spaces to rodeo-goers, including the lot west of the rodeo grounds.
The city’s parking problem, however, is not limited to rodeo weekend. The city has been considering a plan that would allow State Street businesses to contribute to a fund that would allow the city to develop additional parking spaces in the downtown area. As it is, several State Street businesses have for either employees or patrons, not both.