Despite the efforts of remaining board members, the Okanagan International Children’s Festival Society has officially announced there will not be a festival this year, even as a scaled-down version.
Though the festival has seen trying times over the last few years, the board is committed to the event moving forward and working diligently toward a return of the festival.
The announcement came Monday, at the same time as they announced that the society will be holding an annual general meeting on July 30 at the Penticton Community Centre.
Matt Oomen, one of the five remaining directors, thinks it’s likely that constant changeover in people organizing the festival, since founder Gord Oslund retired in 2010, is part of the problem. Going forward, he said, is going to require a board dedicated to bringing the event back.
Oomen said the goal is to run the full festival again next year, but that may not be possible. He is committed though, to making sure the festival happens in some form.
“It’s going to need people that want to see this happen,” Oomen said.
“This board is going to have to be more involved than it has in the past.”
The festival was founded in 2003 by Oslund and quickly built a reputation as one of the top 10 children’s festivals in North America.
It ran until 2012, when organizers estimated that over 10,000 people attended the three-day festival.
Planning ran into a roadblock for the 2013 festival after the new executive director, Conrad Burek, resigned in Nov. 2012. With little time to advertise and hire someone new before the festival in May 2013, the society’s board decided to take a break.
Then, in April 2013, the festival faced another crisis when title sponsor Rotary International decided to pull out. However, the festival returned in 2014, with an estimated 9,000 people passing through the gates.
With the uncertainty about the future of the festival, Oomen said funding continues to be a problem.
“I have been able to apply for a couple of grants. I have begged and pleaded my way into a couple of extensions. But we have missed a lot of our funding again,” said Oomen, adding that he has been consulting with other organizations and groups in the city like the Downtown Penticton Association and the Penticton Hospitality Association.
“Everybody says they want this to go,” he said, explaining that the next step is to put a new board together and develop a plan for next spring.
“This one is really going to come down to people putting their money where their mouth is when I come calling for funding,” said Oomen.
“So far, I haven’t met many people that don’t want to see the children’s festival happen.
“It is really going to come down to what Penticton wants to see.”
The Children’s Festival Society will be holding its AGM on Thursday, July 30 at the Penticton Community Centre.
The society’s press release advises that anyone interested in helping with the festival’s return or joining the board of directors is encouraged to attend this meeting. Doors to the Community Centre will be locked at 5:45 p.m.