Utah governor hosts event honoring Robert Redford

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A black tie celebration was held in Salt Lake City for film star Robert Redford Saturday night. 

Governor Gary Herbert put together the gala event, The Governor’s Salute to Robert Redford: A Utah Tribute to an American Icon.

More than 1,200 people attended the sold out dinner, which was held at the Grand America hotel’s Grand Ballroom. Attendees heard from Redford, his son James, and five-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald.

Redford said he was ‘overwhelmed’ by the tribute, saying he had avoided Herbert’s overtures for the recognition for years because he was shy.

“He finally relented, probably wore him down,” Herbert said. “He agreed to let us pay homage as a state and tell him ‘thank you’ for the work he’s done and the contributions he’s made to Utah, which are significant.”

Redford said he first discovered Utah as he was driving home to Los Angeles. He bought a few acres in the mountains in 1961, opened the Sundance Resort in 1969 (the same year he starred in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” with Paul Newman), followed by the Sundance Institute, and then the Sundance Film Festival.

In a video shown at the tribute, Redford said: “The idea was to create an independent showcasing, where the films could have a place to gather and form a community of seeing one another’s work. And maybe, if you’re lucky, someone else would (see it). That led to the idea of a festival, and then it became what it is.”

The Governor’s Office said the film festival has a $75 million annual impact on the state’s economy, creating 8,200 jobs, and drawing 219,000 tourists to Utah in last five years.