Resident’s backyard concerts will continue in 15th & 15th after striking deal with Salt Lake City

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The shows will go on.

An 81-year-old resident’s long-standing tradition of hosting concerts in her backyard in the summer will continue after she agreed to some changes that satisfied the city’s requirements, Building Salt Lake has learned.

In February, Building Salt Lake reported on the city’s decision to end the summertime tradition on Kensington Avenue, where Carolyn Turkanis had been hosting summer concerts every weekend in her backyard for almost 25 years. 

Just short of that quarter-century mark, the city determined that Turkanis’ gatherings were not allowed, citing issues like the public nature of the gatherings, the monetized nature of the encouraged donations to local musicians, congestion on the street just off 15th and 15th, and noise. 

But Turkanis doesn’t have to call off her concerts anymore — after the flurry of news coverage about the decision reached the public, the city had another look at their code. The show will in fact go on at Kensington, with some minor changes. 

In a letter to Turkanis from Blake Thomas, Director of Salt Lake City’s Community and Neighborhoods, which was also approved by the city attorney, Thomas expressed that he felt her gatherings were valuable, and that while they were noncompliant with her home’s residential zoning code, he saw some ways that code compliance and Turkanis’ fostering of community and local music could coexist. 

Among these suggestions were to limit the events to by-name invite only, removing all public promotion of the events like on the Facebook page Turkanis was using, and to reduce the frequency of events. Thomas also said that “suggested donations” for musicians could be replaced by a tip-jar. 

Turkanis told us she didn’t talk with the city about its previously stated concerns about congestion, noise or parking, which were key reasons the city cited for originally stopping the concerts.

Those points apparently now being moot, Turkanis is planning to make the suggested changes to make her gatherings less like concerts, more like private parties. As proposed by Thomas on behalf of the city, she’s putting up a new, private Facebook page, utilizing an unadvertised tip jar, and as the biggest change, putting on only seven shows this summer, instead of a show every weekend between May and early September. 

Since finding out the good news about this summer’s “private parties with live music,”  as they’re now designated, there’s been an outpouring of excitement from Turkanis’ neighbors and friends. 

It was for these neighbors that she’d planned to keep inviting these neighbors over this summer, sans the music. 

But, she says, “I realized that one of my deepest sadnesses was that I wouldn’t be able to support musicians. I could continue the sense of community in the neighborhood, but being able to give local musicians a place to perform is really important.” 

Luckily, it seems the city has come around to the same view. Whether it’s because of all the bad press, the public clamor or because of a newfound commitment to keeping an open and inquisitive mind when getting word about neighborhood happenings, their decision is worth celebrating for the continuation of one well-loved community event alone. 

“I think it’s a win for the city, really,” Turkanis said, “That they stepped back and took a fresh look at it through a different lens. And realized this could happen. And for me, it’s definitely a win. It’s not about me, it’s about this community. And my neighbors, and my friends.” 

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