Adam Fitzpatrick shook

Adam Fitzpatrick shook

Arts and entertainment newsmakers of the year

Part one of two — The arts and entertainment stories that were most talked about in Penticton and the South Okanagan this year.

Hometown Elvis takes second in the world

Adam Fitzpatrick took on a challenge that would change his life.

In 2008 he was dared by a friend to enter the Pacific Northwest Elvis Tribute Artist competition held in Penticton. The next year he hopped on stage shaking his hips all the way to first place in the amateur division. He was a natural and this year was his most impressive yet. Fitzpatrick placed first at the Penticton competition, earning him the right to compete at the Ultimate Elvis Competition in Memphis in August where he found himself in the top five. The song Wonder of You, one of his favourites, launched him into second place against tribute artists from around the world.

“My heart was pumping and I was confident but at the same time just being in that top five was amazing. Honestly, never did I think I would be in the top five and I did not expect to come in second place overall,” said Fitzpatrick. “I had to hold back when they called my name because second is not the winner, but I wanted to do a victory lap on that stage so badly.”

The Elvis tribute artist walked away with $3,000 in prize money and backstage he had Legends In Concert approach him about a possible contract. While continuing to soak in these experiences and riding his success, Fitzpatrick has no plans to stop. He spent the past few months on tour in western Canada and will be back in Penticton on Jan. 11,2014 at the Copper Mug, Jan. 13 in Osoyoos and Jan. 25 at the Cleland Theatre with the Bringing It Back Tour with Joe Kelso as Roy Orbison.

After that, he will continue to tour the western provinces straight through into the summer.

Koyczan grabs world’s attention

In early 2013 Penticton’s slam poet and author extraordinare Shane Koyczan put out a call for animators to submit their work to go along with a video he was making.

Two months later over 4.6 million people (11.8 million to date) viewed it on YouTube and he built an army to stand up against bullying with his poem To This Day.

“To me it is all therapy and that is really what writing is for me. You get something off your chest and the positive feeling behind it is that it reaches the people who have gone through something similar,” said Koyczan.

Already known for his unforgettable We Are More poem, read at the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, Koyczan continued on growing his prominence worldwide speaking about To This Day at the annual TED Conference in Long Beach, Calif., then at a independently organized TED event for youth in San Diego.

His schedule continues to be hectic. In March 2014, Koyczan will be appearing with the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra in Penticton in a special concert called Symphony and Syllables.

There are also plans to join the Vancouver Orchestra next year for a chamber opera with libretto written by Koyczan.

Okanagan International Children’s Festival

Thousands and kids and families were disappointed when the International Children’s Festival decided to take a hiatus this year, but they vowed to return.

The festival, which ran in Penticton for 10 years, was struck hard with the loss of key players that help pull off the event every year then again when their title sponsor left.

That left the board of directors encouraging anyone who has ever been involved with the festival as a fundraiser, performer, volunteer or audience member to donate.

Donations rolled in from organizations and residents. In December, festival chair Jason Cox was happy to announce it would return with the always popular Fred Penner headlining.

“We know we are coming back with a better, stronger and more sustainable festival,” said Cox.

Barb Haynes has taken over the position as executive director and brings with her a wealth of community event experience. She said the first item on her things to do list is to find a new title sponsor. The festival will take place May 22 to 24 and will also feature headliners Monster Theatre, Ache Brasil, Kaput, Swing, Circus West and more to appeal to a varied audience.

Tickets and show schedules will be available to schools and groups beginning Jan. 20.

Peach Festival brings strong lineup of entertainment

Returning bigger and better than ever, the five-day Penticton Peach Festival saw large crowds enjoy a strong lineup of music, entertainment and cultural aspects in August.

It is estimated 75,000 people rocked to the sounds of headliner performers, gasped in awe at the RCAF Snowbirds aerial show and enjoyed everything else the festival offered.

“I thought it was a great week, the numbers were great, people were telling me the parade crowds were the biggest they’d ever seen,” said president Don Kendall, who heads the 16-member board that organizes the free festival of festivals each year.

The high profile lineup at the 2013 festival included Honeymoon Suite, One More Girl, The Steadies, Killarney and 40 other bands, dancers and entertainers.

“Honeymoon Suite just packed the park and put on an incredible show and there’s no place else you can see that kind of entertainment for free and again that’s thanks to our sponsors, in particular Peters Bros. Construction. They are the ones who allow us to do that.”

Staples like the sandcastle competition, slo-pitch tournament, aboriginal village, square dancing, crowing of Miss Penticton Royalty and the addition of new events like the Peachpit Pentown Throwdown skateboard and BMX competition contributed to the event’s success.

“We are committed to keeping it a free festival so everyone can afford to go. No matter who you are, you can afford to have a good time at Peach Festival,” said festival president Don Kendall.

Organizers began preparing for the 2014 event immediately after they wrapped in August and have already been booking entertainment.

Boonstock announces move to Penticton

A mixed reaction came from the public and area officials when organizers of the music, arts and cultural festival Boonstock announced they were re-locating to Penticton.

Promoter Colin Kobza told the Penticton Western News he was bringing a scaled back version of the three-day event that was pushed out of Sturgeon County in Alberta for bad behaviour by some of its 65,000 concert-goers, some alleged negligence by the organizers and a mess of traffic that caused congestion on a major highway.

Kobza said he had the backing of the city and Penticton Indian Band where the event is scheduled to be held. Contrary to that, Penticton Mayor Garry Litke said he did not have the support of council and PIB Chief Jonathan Kruger said Kobza was “premature” with his announcement. While Boonstock is leasing the land from a locatee (private) landowner on the PIB they still need to adhere to rules such as having a security plan. At the time of the announcement Penticton RCMP said they would not have extra officers on the already busy long weekend to work the event.

Since then, another summer music festival in Kelowna (Centre of Gravity) that would run concurrent with Boonstock is changing their dates, which potentially could open the door for RCMP officers to be available for the Penticton concert. After the PIB held a community meeting for its members Kruger said there is still lots of work to be done. Barb Haynes, former general manager of Challenge Penticton, is now under contract by Boonstock to handle their communications.

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