Penticton takes the party to the streets

Even if you’re not taking part in the race, the annual street party that kicks off Ironman weekend is going to be the place to be on Aug. 26. Two blocks of Main Street will be closed off for the party, which is organized by the Downtown Penticton Association, and boast three separate stages with entertainment and fun for four solid hours starting at 6 p.m. on the Friday night.

Donnalee Davidson

Donnalee Davidson

Even if you’re not taking part in the race, the annual street party that kicks off Ironman weekend is going to be the place to be on Aug. 26.

Two blocks of Main Street will be closed off for the party, which is organized by the Downtown Penticton Association, and boast three separate stages with entertainment and fun for four solid hours starting at 6 p.m. on the Friday night.

“The main thing is that it’s a free event for everybody and a celebration of community,” said Riley Gettens, marketing director for the DPA. She isn’t sure, however, how many years the party has been a feature of the Ironman Weekend.

“It definitely precedes all of us here in the office; it’s been a pretty long tradition,” said Gettens. “I’m not sure when it first started. But that’s the way with a lot of the things we find downtown. We’ve got these great Penticton traditions and then we just keep them going.”

One of the modern traditions of the party is the art stations spread throughout the party, where kids can do chalk art on the streets to welcome the athletes as they head for the finish line of the day-long race.

What’s new this year, however, is the time; this year’s party starts an hour earlier, at 6 p.m., though it still runs until 10 p.m. — an extra hour of party time, giving families with young children a better chance to share in the fun.

“We had some requests from families,” said Gettens. “They had such a good time, but they had to get their kids to bed. But they could have come earlier.”

There will be lots for them to do. In addition to the music, there are bouncy castles, face painting, giant game boards and more; over a dozen kids activities.

And then, there is the music. One of the main areas will be Nanaimo Square, where  DJ Skakes is setting up, and bringing in Jake Evans and his crew to do some breakdancing.

“Last year that was really popular. It’s kind of his little ultimate dance party,” said Gettens. “We put a tent over Nanaimo Square, so it’s kind of like an outdoor nightclub for families. It’s a really cool vibe in there.”

And on the two other stages set up near Westminister and Wade Avenues, a variety of local performers will be entertaining the crowds, which Gettens estimates at over 7000 people.

“Papa Wheely, that’s a local band and they do great rock covers, so they are going to get the party started there. They are going to be closer to Westminster Avenue. And on the other side, up by Wade, Kinship returns,” she said.

“They’re a Celtic rock band from Kelowna and they have played with some really great musicians. They were here last year and they just kept the whole street jumping to the party with their bagpipes.”

In all there will be eight acts performing on the stages, including a number of local favourites, like Lou Lou and the Scrappers, About Time, Ari Neufeld, The Darylectones and Kirk Dixon.

During breaks between acts, there will still be lots going on, with with a variety of performances from local groups like Get Bent Belly Dancing, Bahiti Dancing, Okanagan School of Dance and  fire spinning by Donnalee Davidson.

Gettens said putting the party together is a lot of fun.

“It’s a lot of work, but we’ve got a great team. It’s just such a great feel for this event,” she said. “We definitely have our visitors, but there are so many locals that come out. This is just such a great way to wrap up summer and just celebrate Penticton. It’s just such a great place to live and we have so much stuff to do in the summer.