Meadowlark Festival a natural attraction

15th annual celebration of the natural beauty of the South Okanagan kicks off May 17

  • May. 10, 2012 5:00 a.m.
Keira Schramm tests the softness of a seal pelt at last year’s Meadowlark Festival.

Keira Schramm tests the softness of a seal pelt at last year’s Meadowlark Festival.

With bird tours, guided hikes, barbecue boat-cruises and even the chance a ride on a 100-year-old steam engine coming to town, the Okanagan and Similkameen areas are about to get a whole lot busier.

The Meadowlark Festival, which runs from May 17- 21, will be celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. The festival attempts to shine a spotlight on the natural beauty of the valleys’ unique ecosystems while educating the public about the environment, said Anita Dunford, Meadowlark festival co-ordinator.

Over the past 15 years, the festival has seen a steady growth in its number of participants, having over 3,000 individuals partaking in the events last year. Dunford said festival organizers expect to have at least 2,500 this year, if not more to break last year’s record.

Visitor numbers and accolades aside, Dunford said first and foremost, she wants people to enjoy themselves.

To this end, the festival offers over 90 different events, including tours, lectures, children’s programming and presentations. This year, the festival is introducing new events such as the History & Geology Tour On Rails, which is touted by the festival as a steam-engine tour through the Prairie Valley’s past, including the history of some of its more notable characters as well as its geology and water system.

However, Dunford added that old favorites — such as the Okanagan Lake BBQ, Nature & Music Cruise, where participants will spend the early evening enjoying a barbecue on a boat on the Okanagan lake, and the KVR Birding Cycling Tour with Dick Cannings, a guided bicycle tour of the Kettle Valley Railway Trail, which mixes bird-watching with a history lesson of the trail — will still be around.

Following last year’s theme of water, Dunford said that this year’s theme is climate change, and with this in mind, the keynote speaker for the festival will be Jim Hoggan, chair of the David Suzuki Foundation and trustee of the Dalai Lama Centre for Peace and Education.

Hoggan and a small panel of local experts will be taking questions and talking about his 2009 book Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming, which famed environmentalist David Suzuki described as documenting “one of the most disgusting stories ever hidden about corporate disinformation.” Hoggan will be speaking at Penticton’s Shatford Centre on May 17 during the festival kick-off. Tickets are $10.

As well, this year’s featured artist is Summerland’s Val Eibner, who will be displaying a number of her fused-glass pieces during the festival in the exhibition Exploration of Light at the Penticton Art Gallery.

Eibner is a self-described “Okanagan-Valley girl” who, after running a pottery studio, working as a sculptor and a set dresser in the film industry, made her way to Summerland where she developed her ability to create impressive works of art with fused glass, building an impressive portfolio of both small and large-scale works.

Eibner’s mounted sculpture Eye Spy a Meadowlark, which was inspired by her experience growing up on the Prairies, will be raffled away at the 15th Anniversary Celebration Event in Linden Gardens in Kaleden on May 18.

For more information or to purchase tickets for the various events going on throughout the festival, visit