There are not many activities a family can do for free for a whole day, much less five, but that is the beauty of the Penticton Peach Festival.
“It truly is a family festival,” said Peach Festival president Don Kendall. “There is great entertainment for ages three to 93. I think it has become a family tradition, particularly in the past five years, because it opened up with moving from Gyro Park into Okanagan Lake Park.
From today through Sunday, Penticton Peach Festival will celebrate its 65th anniversary. The fun starts at noon today at Okanagan Lake Park with seniors day bingo. Performances go throughout the day, but the opening ceremonies take place at 6:30 p.m. followed by the West Coast Lumberjack show, Side One band, the Bahiti Belly Dancers and legendary Canadian band Lighthouse takes the stage at 9:45 p.m. Over the next four days, there is also long list of great free entertainment at Okanagan Lake Park including Stan Foster, Neil Diamond tribute artist, AC/DC tribute band High Voltage and three-time platinum selling band 54-40 on Friday at 9:40 p.m.
Kendall said there are two reasons why Peachfest is so successful every year.
“Sponsors and volunteers. It is those two groups that really make Peach Festival possible because it is a huge undertaking. I don’t know of any other festival in Western Canada that brings in this type of entertainment, and of such variety, that is all free to the public,” said Kendall, who estimated there will be 200 volunteers helping out on Saturday.
The 29th annual Sandcastle Competition, sponsored by Skaha Projects Society in conjunction with Penticton Peach Festival, is held on Thursday. This event is expected to attract about 30 teams to the warm, sandy Skaha beach starting at 4 p.m. Spectators are welcome, free of charge, to check out the creations made from the different categories including corporate, family/friends, youth and kids. Prize money is up for grabs for contestants, and Kyle Anderson and The Amazing Rubber Band will be performing.
Expanding into Okanagan Lake Park has allowed Peachfest to include the Aboriginal Cultural Village in Gyro Park. Entertainment here is also free to the public. Opening ceremonies for the village are on Friday at noon with Chief Jonathan Kruger and invited dignitaries followed by a performance by Ta’Kaiya Blaney.
On Friday, another Peach Festival tradition continues when one of 13 Penticton high school students will be honoured with the title of Miss Penticton. The crowning of Miss Penticton and her royalty takes place at the Cleland Theatre after pageant night starting at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20, available at the door or Hartford Travel.
Touted as the largest parade in the B.C. Interior, the Peters Bros. Construction Peach Festival parade rolls through the downtown core on Saturday. The parade starts at 10 a.m. on Main Street and Eckhardt Avenue, proceeding north on Main Street to Lakeshore Drive and disbanding at the Rose Garden car park near the SS Sicamous. Get downtown early and enjoy a pancake breakfast courtesy of the Penticton Elks Club between 7-11 a.m.
Kiddies Day at Peachfest is on Sunday and kicks off with the parade sponsored by the Downtown Penticton Association. Kids, up to and including age 12, are invited to dress up themselves, their tricycles, bikes or any other manner of transportation and parade down Main Street to Okanagan Lake Park. Judging takes place at 10 a.m. at the City Centre parking lot, then at 11:30 a.m. a City of Penticton fire truck will lead the parade. Prizes are awarded in several categories. Entrance forms are available from the DPA, at www.peachfest.com or by calling 250-493-8540.
Kendall estimates some 70,000 people converge on the Peach Festival grounds to check out the entertainment, visit the amusement park and try out food from the vendors.
“I was talking with hotel operators and restaurateurs in town and they say it is always one of their biggest weeks of the year. We know that it is hard to book hotel rooms during Peachfest because we have to book them for bands, dancers and groups from out of town, and quite often it is a challenge to find enough hotel rooms,” said Kendall.
While a large majority of the things to do are free, there are a few attractions that you do have to pay for. New to Peach Festival this year is Magicland Movie Rides. This attraction brings the thrill of a California theme park with a 3D motion simulator. Kendall said this attraction was a huge hit at the Calgary Stampede. Shooting Star Amusements, which opened Monday in Rotary Park, will have specials throughout the week including discounted pricing for their Facebook fans on Friday and on Kids Day Sunday.
Also bringing people to Penticton is the Sheila Bishop Memorial Wooden Bat Slo-Pitch tournament, with all proceeds going directly to charity. The beverage garden is open all weekend and a home run contest takes place Sunday afternoon at Lion’s Park field. Last year $3,000 was donated to South Okanagan charities.