Gov. Herbert honors Robert Redford for contribution to Utah

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Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert declared Nov. 9 to be Robert Redford Day during a black-tie event that honored the famous actor in the Grand America Hotel Ballroom in Salt Lake City, Nov. 9.

Governor Gary R. Herbert and Robert Redford stood before the audience at the end of the event at The Grand America in Salt Lake City. (Photo by Ari Davis)
Governor Gary R. Herbert and Robert Redford stood before the audience at the end of the event at The Grand America in Salt Lake City. (Photo by Ari Davis)

Herbert said Redford’s contribution to Utah has been significant like great men before him.

“Tonight we have an opportunity to pay tribute to such a man,” Herbert said. “He is one of us. He is family.”

A visibly moved Redford accepted the governor’s declaration.

“I never imagined this evening would happen,” Redford said. “I’ve never been too big on tributes or awards, but tonight is special. It touches me.”

The response was a standing ovation from over 1,200 guests.

Though the governor and Redford have been at political odds in the past, the governor hosted the event to demonstrate his appreciation for what Redford has done for Utah, according to the governor’s staff. Robert is a staunch Democrat and environmentalist and has disagreed with the governor on how to use Utah’s land and resources. However at this event the governor said Redford is a great example of “what it means to be a steward of the earth.”

Redford started the Sundance Film Festival, which has had a $375 million economic impact on Utah in the last five years alone. It has also attracted over 291,000 tourists to Utah. Redford had the opportunity to move Sundance to another state, but he declined.

Sundance Film Festival has brought half a billion dollars into the state since development began in 1969. It has not been Redford’s only contribution to Utah’s economy, however. Redford also owns the Sundance Ski Resort, which is used as a ski portfolio to draw companies and tourists to Utah.

“Sundance has done an incredible job of putting Utah on the map,” said Jeff Edwards, CEO of the Economic Development Corporation of Utah. “We use Sundance as a recruiting force.”

Redford’s influence has benefitted Utah on a world stage, said Franz Kolb, Utah director of economic development.

“Mr. Redford is an icon,” Kolb said. “Whenever we go on trade missions people want to talk about Utah, red rock and Mr. Redford.”

Redford’s relationship with the state of Utah actually began years earlier. His introduction to Utah came when he first starred in a movie filmed in the state. He fell in love with the land — and a Utah woman — and decided he wanted his children to grow up outside the hype of Hollywood. In 1961 Redford found and purchased his first two acres of land on Mount Timpanogos in 1969. The Sundance Film Festival began in 1981.

Redford said that, at first, his relationship with Utah was purely physical.

“I saw this state from a geological point of view, and I said to myself, ‘This is the place,'” Redford said.

James Redford, Robert Redford’s son, said his father’s love for Utah is also deeply personal and spiritual. He recalls his father swearing on the phone when a studio threatened to move a Redford movie to Spain. He said his father hates colorful language but made an exception.

“It’s a parental love,” James Redford said. “Even a possessive one.”

The Nov. 9 event was an opportunity for Utah to return the love. Herbert also gave Robert Redford a framed belt buckle to remember the occasion. He placed his arm around Redford as the actor smiled at the crowd.

“I think he feels more at home here than he does in Hollywood,” Herbert said.

Redford remarked he felt both shrunk and lifted at the same time.

“What really touches me most about tonight is whatever differences may exist, we could all come together on something we all agree on,” Robert Redford said. “Our love for this state.”

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