Meadowlark Festival takes flight this week

Shining a spotlight on the South Okanagan’s unique ecosystem with the Meadowlark Festival.

Shining a spotlight on the South Okanagan’s unique ecosystem, this year’s Meadowlark Festival hopes to engage people on what they can do to preserve these areas.

“This year our theme is: What can I do? We have asked all our expert tour guides to give information regarding what the public can do to help preserve these beautiful natural areas,” said Sally Kilburg, Meadowlark Nature Festival chair.

Ticket sales have been steady with some tours already sold out. Kilburg said the five-day festival, May 15 to 19, provides an economic boost to the area.

A lot of these people are coming from other places because they enjoy the Okanagan and it is a good reason for them to come for a vacation. You can do the same tour 10 years in a row and it will be different every time because of what you might see. Everything is always a little different,” said Kilburg. “We also tell people to hold on to the programs because it is a compendium of really cool, beautiful wild places you can go to in the Okanagan-Similkameen.”

The keynote presentation takes place on Thursday and explores the relationship between the coffee trade and the life cycle of a number of dwindling migratory bird species, some of which live in the Okanagan. Robert Rice, geologist and research scientist with the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center in Washington, D.C. will explain how something as simple as a coffee habit is killing birds.

He will also show how a move towards bird-friendly coffee can make a huge difference in the survival of these species.

“This was a surprise to me that coffee is the second most valued traded commodity on earth, second only to oil,” said Kilburg. “With the bird population issues there are a couple of things that could be done to improve the situation. Primarily it is supporting growers that grow coffee where the old forest still exists. What happens is people will decimate an entire forest in South America to grow coffee and these birds are getting thrown off. It has all these layers of complexity to it because of that.”

Rice’s presentation will be followed by a panel discussion moderated by Professor Sharon Mansiere (biology professor, Okanagan College) discussing other aspects of bird population loss, health and the Okanagan population. Panel members include Rice, Dick Cannings (Okanagan naturalist and author), Michael Bezner (environmental consultant, program development at En’owkin Centre) and Mansiere.

Doors open at 6 p.m. and the presentation is at 7 p.m. Bird friendly coffee will be available for testing and sale.

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at, in person at the Shatford Centre from noon to 2 p.m. and by phone using a credit card from noon to 2 p.m. by calling 250-492-5275.

The 2014 Meadowlark Nature Festival has more than 80 environmental tours and events being offered in the Okanagan Similkameen. They are designed to be fun and informative for people of all ages and abilities.

For more on the activities led by prominent naturalists, educators, artists, experienced guides and scientists visit

“We still have a lot of good tickets for events and our ticket sales our key to our survival. We have to cut off our ticket sales 2 p.m. the day before because they are online so we are really encouraging people to buy them early,” said Kilburg.