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Familiar face takes the reins of Peachfest

Rick Riddall took on some major challenges when he took over as president of the Peach Festival Society late last year, leading the volunteer group that manages the annual five-day festival, the largest free one of its kind in B.C. But he is looking forward to it.

“We’ll have a great year, we had a great one last year and we’re just going to continue on,” said Riddall. “Don Kendall did a great job the last few years. He is going to stay on as past-president, which will really help me because he has a lot of experience.”

Riddall admits his style probably isn’t going to be the same as the highly organized Kendall.

“When he sits down at that table, he’s got his notes,” said Riddall. “I am not quite the same kind of guy as him. I am more casual, a little more off the cuff.”

What they do share is a background in media and marketing — Kendall, a former publisher of the Western News, works in the newspaper industry and Riddall in radio, though he has been retired since 2004.

“I moved up here in 1990, my wife and myself,” said the former Giant FM marketing rep, who also has a background in accounting.

“In 2000, I got involved with the community — prior to that I was just working for myself. John Vassilaki introduced me to the Peachfest and that is when I got involved,” said Riddall, listing off his work with the United Way and the Rotary Club as well.

“This year, it’s 100 per cent of my time is going to be spent on Peachfest,” he said. “It’s needed ... it’s a big festival and it has to be done right.”

Organizing the entertainment for the festival is one of the biggest jobs, and that process is already underway. Bill Colter, who has overseen that job for many years, will continue, but with a little extra help.

“Don is going to assist him this year on it. And Don is going to assist me with the marketing,” said Riddall, who will also be working on getting new sponsors for Peachfest.

“We’ve lost a few — Lottery BC has stepped back, they’re not going to give us any money, which they have for the last number of years. They sponsored the stage for a number of years in a row,” said Riddall. “We have to replace the sponsor, so we have some work to do there.”

Other longtime sponsors, like Peters Bros., are still in the lineup — they will be sponsoring the Grand Parade once again. Part of the entertainment for the opening night festivities is taken care of as well. Local musician Ashlie Atkinson has been booked to sing the anthem at the ceremonies. Besides recently taking on the female lead in the musical production Chess, Atkinson’s voice will be familiar for many Penticton Vees fans — she often sings the anthem prior to the start of their games.

Riddall sees keeping the other volunteers’ spirits up as another big part of the president’s job.

“Just keeping the enthusiasm going and that is something I have always excelled at,” he said. “My motto is make it fun, that’s in anything I have done.”

The 2011 Peachfest is planned for Aug. 3 to 7, using the venues that have served the festival for many years, with events centred on Okanagan Lake Park, the Aboriginal Cultural Village in Gyro Park and a midway in Rotary Park.

“And we’re already worried about the weather, we hope it is nice,” Riddall jokes. “Last year, we lucked out beautifully.”

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