Horse racing returns to Desert Park in Osoyoos

Desert Park Exhibition Society lines up races for June 15 and Aug. 31 with other events in the works

Trainer Diana Feurehelm of Alberta works with one of her horses during a circuit of the track at the Desert Park Exhibition grounds this week during training for the upcoming season. Horse racing is scheduled to return to Desert Park with two announced dates later this year

Trainer Diana Feurehelm of Alberta works with one of her horses during a circuit of the track at the Desert Park Exhibition grounds this week during training for the upcoming season. Horse racing is scheduled to return to Desert Park with two announced dates later this year

And they’re off — the Desert Park Exhibition Society is bringing horse racing back to Osoyoos this summer for the first time in over a decade.

“I think it is very exciting,” said Osoyoos Mayor Stu Wells. “There will be people that will be very excited for the two days of horse racing. I think it will draw a lot of people here.”

The Desert Park Exhibition Society has announced that June 15 and Aug. 31 will see the return of horse racing to the community. It has been a long process to get there, starting with the South Interior Recreational Equestrian Centre who tried for two years to get the 40-acre facility running for a variety of usages. In 2011, SIREC and the Town of Osoyoos ended negotiations after council decided they could not lease the facility to a for-profit corporation. They dissolved and the Desert Park Exhibition Society, a not-for-profit, was created and signed a five-year contract with the Town of Osoyoos in November 2011 with two five-year renewable options.

“When you are a town you can’t really give a service or provide a building for less than fair market value, otherwise you could do it for every business in town. We don’t give a building to say an electrical company and give them a cut rate on their rent,” said Wells. “Some of that same group in the for-profit corporation then got together with others in town and came back as a not-for-profit so we are dealing now with a good group of volunteers, and anytime you have that they really can make things happen.”

Desert Park fell into disuse in the late ‘90s after horse racing ended and had been closed to equestrian activities since the mid-2000s until SIREC signed a short-term lease agreement with the Town of Osoyoos and began repairs. Now the Desert Park Exhibition Society is continuing that process.

“The main objective of the exhibition society is to host horse races, barrel racing, equestrian events and there is a section to hold events for the South Okanagan in the centre of the venue such as concerts. There is a potential for that but we have no confirmed dates just yet,” said Carol Youngberg, president of the Desert Park Exhibition Society. “We have bull riding coming in July and are just sorting out the details with that as well.”

Horse racing is scheduled for June 15 and Aug. 31 and will bring 64 horses each day into the 120 stalls at Desert Park. They will be split into eight heats on each of the days for the Okanagan Similkameen Interior Horse Racing Association circuit, which also runs in Vernon at Kin Park and in Princeton during Racing Days in June at Sunflower Downs. Youngberg said the dates fall perfectly into the shoulder season for Osoyoos.

“The June date is right before accommodation usually fills up in Osoyoos and August is typically when people are leaving. We also have accommodation on site with some fully serviced RV sites,” said Youngberg.

“I originally got involved with this because I wanted to see the facility remain in the hands of the community of Osoyoos and because I felt we need a little more activity in the area. This is not only going to boost the economy, but gives different things for people to do and the venue really does provide an opportunity to people who may want to entertain, put on a show or whatever in the community.”

The society president said extensive work has been done on the Desert Park track and buildings to prepare them for racing this summer. The grandstands are currently blocked off and not usable, but Youngberg said they will provide portable seating for events. They also are anticipating receiving funds from the provincial government and thoroughbred breeders association for purse money on racing days.

Youngberg said around the middle of April, a representative from the B.C. Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch will be at the venue to see if the society is up to snuff on the six-pages of guidelines they were given.

The society is currently looking for volunteers to help with maintenance, concessions, parking, security and beer gardens and a list of other jobs. Youngberg said anyone interested in volunteering is welcome to find out more during a recruiting meeting on March 27 at 7 p.m. at the Sonora Centre in Osoyoos or can contact her at 250-485-2238.


Just Posted

Sandra Krauer, Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki and Barb Hoolaeff were in Skaha Park to announce the return of Ribfest for September, 2021. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Ribfest returns to Penticton

Festival runs from Sept. 17 - 19 at Skaha Lake Park with proceeds going to new splash park

Fiery crash on the Okanagan Connector between two semis. (Facebook)
One dead after fiery Okanagan Connector crash between two semis

DriveBC estimates road won’t be open until 5 p.m.

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

Turn out is high in advance voting for the Penticton by election taking place Saturday, June 19, 2021. (Screen shot)
Over 2,500 already voted in Penticton by-election

General voting day is Saturday, June 19

The City of Penticton is beginning plans to revitalize its north entrance on Highway 97. (Jesse Day - Western News)
Penticton reviewing ideas on how to make the city’s north gateway more vibrant

The city has plans to redevelop the area into a welcoming and attractive entrance

Bear wanders Kelowna on June 15. (Michelle Wallace/Facebook)
Bear climbs fence, uses crosswalk in Kelowna

The bear was spotted on Baron Road Wednesday evening

A vial containing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is shown at a vaccination site in Marcq en Baroeul, outside Lille, northern France, Saturday, March 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michel Spingler
mRNA vaccines ‘preferred’ for all Canadians, including as 2nd dose after AstraZeneca: NACI

New recommendations prioritizes Pfizer, Moderna in almost all cases

Lady Dia, pictured with her son Glory, is a Kelowna artist. She recently received $10,000 in funding for her podcast MoM:ents. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
Lady Dia selected as City of Kelowna’s artist in residence

Dia will release a project designed to discuss and shape the future of a more inclusive Kelowna

Birch Parlee is one of approximately 132,000 transgender people living across the nation, according to Statistics Canada. Photo submitted
Transgender in a small town – Princeton B.C.

“I buried it. I pushed it down. I lived a lie.”

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum speaks at a press conference in August 2019 about provincial government approval of the city’s change to a municipal force, joined by councillors (from left) Mandeep Nagra, Allison Patton and Doug Elford. Members of the National Police Federation claim there is still no transition plan in place although Surrey RCMP’s contract with the city is due to end March 31.(File photo)
Elections BC approves petition application for referendum on Surrey policing transition

Application was filed under Recall and Initiative Act by the widow of a Surrey murder victim

(Black Press Media stock photo)
RCMP name 2015 homicide victim near Creston, investigation ongoing

26-year-old Clint Wolfleg was found dead in a private residence on May 31, 2015

Queen’s counsel Paul Doroshenko, a Vancouver lawyer, has been suspended from practice for two months after admitting that his firm mismanaged $44,353.19 in client trust funds. (Acumen Law)
High-profile B.C. lawyer suspended over $44K in mismanaged client trust funds

Queen’s counsel Paul Doroshenko admits to failing to supervise his staff and find, report the shortage

A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to collect donations ahead of Kristy Handel’s 33-kilometre run for Chelaine McInroy (pictured) to cover costs for a new prosthetic leg after her June 12, 2021, surgery. (GoFundMe)
Friend running to raise funds for Armstrong woman’s new prosthetic leg

33-km Run for Chelaine to help athlete cover medical costs from latest surgery

The Okanagan Eatery owner Chelsea Enns brings with her years of front-of-house and management experience to Vernon’s newest restaurant. (Caitlin Clow - Morning Star)
Vernon’s newest restaurant serves up Okanagan eats

Trio brings passion for locally sourced dishes and smash burgers to the table

Most Read