Penticton council was revved up to honour a longtime volunteer who has driven one local tourist attraction to new heights.
Ken Paton, the Peach City Beach Cruise Society’s founder and president, was honoured during Monday night’s regular council meeting for not only sharing his love of automobiles with the community, but building it into a three-day event that draws thousands of people to the city and generates approximately $2 million in economic activity to the area.
“It’s always difficult to single out one person, and I know you don’t always want to be singled out. But Ken Paton, we’re going to single you out because you deserve it,” Mayor Dan Ashton said, just before he proclaimed Aug. 15 Ken Paton Day in the city.
Born in northern Saskatchewan, Paton became smitten with cars early as the son of an auto mechanic. He moved his family to the Okanagan, where he began to sell vehicles in 1990.
With family and business in check, Paton dreamed of more — of polished paint and chrome buffed to a high shine that would lure car buffs and tourists alike to the City of Penticton.
The Peach City Beach Cruise was born, and a society kicked off the inaugural show in 2000 with 100 vehicles at Skaha Lake Park. This year, the beachfront of Okanagan Lake was lined with more than 800 vehicles and saw more than 10,000 visitors check out the eclectic automotive collection and vendor showcase.
“A lot of them are more than just automobiles. They’re absolute art,” Ashton said.
Coun. Garry Litke said Paton’s initial vision included two parts: creating a world-class car show and an antique car museum complete with a vocational component that would teach the next generation about auto mechanics and body repair. He expressed hope the second half of Paton’s dream would be achieved.
“There was a vision for this city, and it seems that vision has been fulfilled,” Litke said.
The mayor said the first day of each Peach City Beach Cruise would be proclaimed Ken Paton Day in recognition of his work, and gave him a lifetime city parking pass as a token of appreciation.
Paton attributed the event’s success to board members and volunteers, and chuckled when he was handed his parking pass.
“Wouldn’t you know it, I just renewed for the year,” he said.