Bill Kolter has seen many changes over his 17 years volunteering with the Penticton Peach Festival and most in his area of expertise, entertainment.
Among them are a budget that has increased 10-fold while still keeping the spirit of the five-day festival, which runs Aug. 7 to 11.
“It is all free and that is very important,” said Kolter. “There is nobody in western Canada that does what we do and at that, for free to the public.”
Kolter was in the entertainment business most of his life as a musician and booking agent before settling down in Penticton in 1996 and said along with the team of volunteers who keep Peachfest alive, much of the praise has to go to Peters Bros.
“We have had some pretty high profile bands in here and that is thanks to Peters Bros. Without them we couldn’t do it,” he said. “When I started out with Peachfest in 1996 there wasn’t much money. Thanks to Peters Bros. and the other sponsors there is a huge difference in the type of entertainment we can bring to the city.”
That includes a high profile lineup for this year’s festival with Honeymoon Suite, One More Girl, The Steadies, Killarney, The Snowbirds, Dr. Strangelove, Luisa Marshall with her Tina Turner and Donna Summer tribute, the Peach Trio performers, who are members of Vancouver Circus School’s Inner Ring Circus, and over 40 other bands, dancers and entertainers. With that many acts to organize, Kolter said the board began planning the 2013 festival the moment the 2012 festival ended.
With the amount of hours it takes to put together the event, which is expected to attract 70,000 people next week, many of the behind-the-scenes workers don’t even get to relax over the five days it actually takes place.
“There is a lot of work put into it and people are on the go all the time putting it all together. For me personally, there is hundreds of hours a year put into this. Doing something like this, you have to enjoy it and all of our people enjoy it. When it is really done well and Sunday night comes along and it is over and we hear from people who attend that it was a success, that is our fulfilment,” said Kolter. “There is this atmosphere that you just can’t beat at Peachfest and that keeps us going.”
Peach Festival president Don Kendall said Kolter and his connections in the entertainment business are two of the reasons they are able to pull off the five-day party every year.
“During Peach Festival, I have dozens of people come up to me and ask how we can put this all on for free and are amazed at the level of entertainment we have. 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. If we didn’t have Bill, Peters Bros. and the volunteers that we do, there wouldn’t be this level of entertainment.
Along with 11-hour days packed with entertainment, Okanagan Lake Park will have about 50 vendors selling everything from food to clothing. Besides the action at the park, there is also the Aboriginal Cultural Village in Gyro Park which will feature authentic arts, crafts and jewelry, traditional foods, entertainment and children’s activities. Featured performers at the village are Gary Abbott and his sons, who are internationally known hoop dancers. The Peters Bros. Grand Parade takes place on Saturday at 10 a.m. at Main Street and Eckhardt down to Lakeshore Drive and the S.S. Sicamous. It will feature floats from across B.C. and Washington State, marching bands, dancers, gymnasts, musicians and much more. There is also the RONA Sandcastle Competition at Skaha Beach on Aug. 8, Sheila Bishop Memorial Wood Bat slo-pitch tournament, Shooting Star Amusements with rides and games opens on Aug. 5 in Rotary Park, Penticton Square Dance Jamboree, Kiddies Day on Sunday and new for this year the Peachpit Pentown Throwdown skateboard and BMX competition. That event runs Aug. 9 to 11 at the Penticton Youth Park on West Riverside Drive.
Having already moved out of their previous digs at Gyro Park to expand into Okanagan Lake Park across the street, Kolter said he sees it continuing to evolve in the future.
“Every year we turn around and say, now what the heck are we going to do next year? You just wonder how you can top it. We have a great crew with Peachfest and I think that helps a lot and every year we come back with something to bring it up a notch,” said Kolter.
For more information or schedules for entertainment visit www.peachfest.com.