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The film’s the thing

Platteville native Ron Wedig works in Park City, Utah, a host of the Sundance Film Festival.

POSTED January 25, 2018 11:49 a.m.

The annual Sundance Film Festival is this country’s premier film festival for producers considered to be “independent” — that is, outside Hollywood.

Every year, Platteville native Ron Wedig gets a front-row seat in one of the festival’s three Utah locations.

Wedig has been in Utah for 14 years, first as a ski instructor, and now as partner and director of operations for three Park City, Utah, restaurants within walking distance of the theaters where Sundance films are shown.

“I left Platteville in the summer of 2004 for Park City after I received an invitation from Jason Roh (formerly of Platteville) to be his roommate,” said Wedig. “You can say it all started from there. Jason and I were ski instructors together at Chestnut Mountain in Galena for several years.”

Wedig worked as a ski instructor and race coach at Park City Mountain Resort during the day, and as a door greeter at the No Name Saloon evenings. Over the years, his role in restaurants grew, to bartending, then management, then being a general manager, and he left the ski industry, though he said his certification as a professional ski instructor is still current.

 “Sundance Film Festival comes to Park City in the latter part of January to showcase independent film makers’ productions,” he said. “We so happen to have three establishments in walking distance to the theaters which showcase these films. When film goers need a place to dine or have a libation or two, we happily open our doors for them.”

Actor and director Robert Redford started the Sundance Institute in 1981 to provide “the space for artists in film, theatre, and new media to create and thrive,” according to Sundance’s webpage. “The Sundance Film Festival and other public programs connect audiences to artists in igniting new ideas, discovering original voices, and building a community dedicated to independent storytelling.”

The Sundance Film Festival dates back to 1985. Sundance’s most famous films include “Reservoir Dogs,” “sex, lies & videotape,” “Napoleon Dynamite,” “Little Miss Sunshine” and “An Inconvenient Truth.”

“The work of independent storytellers can challenge and possibly change culture, illuminating our world’s imperfections and possibilities,” said Redford. “This year’s Festival is full of artfully-told stories that provoke thought, drive empathy and allow the audience to connect, in deeply personal ways, to the universal human experience.”

This year’s festival, through Sunday, is screening 110 feature-length films from 29 countries, chosen from 13,468 submissions. All but 10 of those films are making their world premieres during the festival. The list of films is at www.sundance.org/festival.

The festival now is held in Salt Lake City, Sundance and Park City, Utah. Diversified Bars & Restaurants, for which Wedig works, owns four Park City restaurants — the No Name Saloon, Butcher’s Chop House, the Boneyard Saloon & Kitchen (Diversified’s original restaurant), and Wine Dive — not far from the 15 locations where Sundance films are screened in Park City.

Wedig and Roh may have been trendsetters in going from the Tri-States — specifically Chestnut Mountain in Galena — to Park City.

“Derek Diedrichs, formerly of Platteville and classmate of Jason Roh, is out visiting Park City during the festival and staying with me as he looks to make moves to relocate his family to Park City area to enjoy the outdoors of which Utah has to offer,” said Wedig. “Thad McGowan — their family hails from Darlington — taught skiing at Chestnut, worked at the No Name Saloon as he coached racing at Park City Mountain.”

Galena connections include Jasper Hillinger-Henderson, general manager of the Boneyard Saloon and Wine Dive; Matt Votja, whom Wedig coached in the Chestnut Mountain Race Program; and Calvin Karberg and Chad Meyer of the Galena area. VanOsdol Photographics of Galena does photography for restaurant prints and menus. 

“I have a close relationship with Mark and Andy VanOsdol,” said Wedig. “Andy lives in Park City as he coaches racing at Park City Mountain Resort. 

“One thing that all the names above have in common: we all were part of Chestnut Mountain Resort at one time or another. We keep our ties close, like a family out here in Park City.”

An annual event takes much of a year to plan, even for businesses that serve festival visitors.

“We start months ahead as we field calls and emails for possible buyouts of our establishments from sponsors and film promoters,” said Wedig. “Scheduling begins in the early fall as we tackle what we feel is a crucial component to making Sundance fluid at our establishments with extra staff than normal to accommodate the crowds and control occupancy concerns from the city. Large spirit purchases are planned and purchased weeks ahead of the festival to prevent hardship on products that may become low on inventory at the State Controlled Liquor Outlets and to minimize deliveries once the festival starts.”

One challenge of owning restaurants in Utah is Utah’s liquor laws, which are like nowhere else in the U.S.

“We have regulations on draft beer as it has to be 3.2 percent by weight or 4 percent alcohol by volume to be on tap,” said Wedig. “For example, the Miller Lite in Platteville is stronger in alcohol content than that of Utah; same holds true for Bud, Bud Light, Coors, Coors Light, Corona and many others.

“The biggest change you will see if you haven’t had a drink in Utah before is the metering of alcohol when a drink is made. Every drink is metered to not exceed 1.5 ounces and cocktails not to exceed 2.5 ounces. … You can’t have doubles of drinks in Utah, nor side cars which once were popular in Utah prior [to] 2009; those were abolished along with the membership needed to even 

See SUNDANCE page 10B υ

walk into an establishment that was considered a bar, or in Utah lingo a business that had a Club License. 

“As for entrepreneurs that want to open an establishment here in Utah that serves alcohol, you may be forced to wait as licenses become available by population increases or another business surrendering or their license or if you have grave violations against you from which the state will take your license. The quota for a Bar license is 1 license per 7,850 people in the state.”

Park City, which is 32 miles west of and 2,800 feet above Salt Lake City in the Wasatch Mountains, swells beyond its 8,200 population during the festival. More than 70,000 people attend the festival at its three sites, with more than $150 million in annual economic impact.

“Once the festival starts, the town becomes gridlocked with traffic at times; anything that we can be proactive with prior to Sundance is done to minimize issues,” he said. “Perhaps one of our trickiest issues in our town during Sundance is parking during the festival for the employees of each establishment. We work with the city to establish which parking lots can be used for employee parking and place a plan for our staff as to carpooling, use public transportation to reduce to the already congested city. In total 

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we have 170-ish employees between three properties, so planning ahead and having a remarkable team to surround yourself with is key to a successful event.”

Not only do visitors who balloon the population makes things different from a normal Park City day.

“Nobody skis when they visit Park City for the Film Festival when surrounded by some of the best skiing in the world, with Deer Valley, Park City Mountain Resort, Alta, & Snowbird Ski Resorts,” said Wedig. “The best time of the year to ski is during the festival — slopes are empty; the only issue is dealing with the traffic as you leave the resorts.”

The festival has celebrities and regular visitors.

“Bill Murray frequents the No Name Saloon during Sundance, especially if there is a NFL playoff game going on, although you wouldn’t easily recognize him as he disguises himself to avoid attention,” said Wedig. “I would whisper to him “hi Bill” as I made my rounds on the tables, he would respond with a wink. His devotion to the No Name Saloon may stem from word getting out that the owner of the No Name Saloon is a big Cubs fan — at least I would like to believe that was true.

“Tina Fey and I once shared a laugh together as I mumbled frustrations over a TV remote control as she had requested a change in stations. Also have had musicians come in from time to time, One Republic, Post Malone (rapper) for instance.”

Wedig, however, takes more note of pro athletes, including “Tony Romo, Johnny Damon, Jim Kelly, Ted Ligety (Park City local)” and others. “Our policy at DBR is to respect & treat athletes & celebs with the same professional hospitality as we would give to those that are non-celebs.” That, he said, “creates repeat visits without the fear of being mobbed.”

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“We have a rule on the front of our menu at No Name Saloon — ‘Special Orders do Upset Us!” said Wedig. “Substitutions slow the process, increase the wait and cost you dearly. However, at the other establishments, that rule is not on the menu as they are uniquely different in atmosphere and model … although if our kitchen staff at the other establishments had a vote, they would have that rule at all places on the menu.”

The irony of having such a large event is that those working because of the event often don’t get to see the event.

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“A lot of us are working long days, there are times that we can sneak into a Sundance Film Festival venues that were once art galleries or a converted speakeasy,” said Wedig. “The Sundance Institute does allow locals on the last Sunday of the festival to watch the best films of each genre for free, which is great, I on the other hand want to go home after the festival ends and spend time with my wife and kids as I don’t see much of them once the festival starts. I have yet to watch a Sundance Film during Sundance in 13 years; maybe year 14 might be different.”

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