Handing over the reigns of power for a long-lasting and popular event is always difficult, doubly so when you are one of the founders.
But Gord Osland thinks they have found the right set of qualities in Conrad Burek to take over for him as director of Penticton’s Rotary Okanagan International Children’s Festival, which drew 10,000 visitors last year.
“With his good skills for administrative stuff, it’s a slam dunk … and lots of experience working with non-profits and volunteers and boards,” said Osland, adding that it is Burek’s people skills that really closed the deal.
“Working with Conrad is fun, get used to it. I get a sense from Conrad that he totally gets what the festival is about,” said Osland. “The whole play for the kid’s festival is to bring in world standard performing arts for kids and make it somewhat educational but absolutely entertaining and accessible for kids.”
For his part, Burek has a lot of respect for Osland, who will be sticking around until June 30 to mentor the new executive director through the 2011 Children’s Festival, the ninth annual.
“I met Gord a number of years ago and what I appreciate about Gord is that he has the eight-year-old eyes,” said Burek, commenting on Osland’s ability to hang on to a child’s wide eyed-fascination and sense of wonder.
“Working with Gord is pretty easy. He is a wealth of information and experience,” said Burek. “I think under anyone else, the pressure would be huge. But Gord is so generous and he has also made so many great bridges in the community.
“I have some assumed credibility because Gord has vetted me. That’s going to last for a little bit.”
Burek’s humour comes easily. A sketch comedy artist and former member of Kelowna’s Rubber Chicken Improv, Burek has a lot of experience getting people to laugh. It’s that experience that makes him so excited to be a part of the Children’s Festival.
“I used to teach and I still do a lot of improv workshops and I find that teens and younger kids are having a tougher and tougher time entertaining themselves,” he said. “This is such a brilliant festival for people to stop and not have things come in to them, but for them to use their own minds.”
With the experienced crew of managers, volunteers and the board of directors to guide him, Burek doesn’t think there will be any trouble keeping the festival on an even keel through the transition. And with the network of national and international contacts Osland has established, he doesn’t see any problems recruiting fresh acts.
“I think one of the greatest challenges is bringing on new sponsors. The festival sells itself … it’s just going out and trying to find new sponsors and educating our corporate sponsors about what we do.”
However, Burek said his respect for the festival takes off some of the pressure.
“I’m fully aware of the weight that is being transferred, but I am pretty confident I share the same passion Gord has for this festival,” Burek said. “I’m not going to look at it as pressure, I am going to look at it as excitement. We’re going into the 10th year, that is a phenomenal year.”
This year’s festival takes place from May 26 to 28 at Okanagan Lake Park.