Okanagan Children’s Festival board optimistic for next year

The Okanagan International Children’s Festival had another hiccup in 2015, but the passion to keep the event going is still alive.

Fred Penner encouraging one of the children from the Summerland Montessori School to sing at his performance at a previous Okanagan International Children's Festival in Penticton.

Fred Penner encouraging one of the children from the Summerland Montessori School to sing at his performance at a previous Okanagan International Children's Festival in Penticton.

The Okanagan International Children’s Festival had another hiccup in 2015, but the passion to keep the event going is still alive.

“Circumstances that arose between last fall and now unfortunately put us in a spot where we weren’t able to run the festival this year,” said board member Matt Oommen, who joined the board last year.

He said that since January the board did attempt to mitigate this year’s situation by scaling down and organizing a one-day event, but that ship has sailed.

“We were close to getting something together, but in the end we couldn’t get the final details worked out.”

Oommen said four of the board members resigned over the past year, limiting the board  down to three members, and it has had as many as eight seats.

Of the recent resignations, three longstanding members gave a year’s notice that they wouldn’t be returning, as “they had all served the board for years and have done great things for the festival.”

He said the other member’s resignations was due to personal reasons that weren’t caused by the festival.

“Due to some miscommunication, two important deadlines were missed for grants that are imperative for the full event to run, we were unable to get that money.  At that point a smaller event was put on the table, funded locally with local entertainment, a smaller-scale event.”

He hopes a refreshed board will revive the event and create a more sustainable structure.

It’s a laborious production that requires an abundance of planning, and there was a “perfect storm” of unfortunate circumstance, he said.

“We ran out of time this year – we need to regroup, take a look at things and make sure it’s set up in a way that’ll work year-after-year.”

In what would have been its 12th year, the three-day event returned in 2014 after taking 2013 off. Traditionally held over the long weekend in May, the festival has previously brought in crowds larger than 10,000.

“The 2014 event was a success, that would never have happened if everyone involved with that event on every level wasn’t committed to its success, and everyone involved helped make it a success,” he said. “The circumstances that brought us to this point are really administrative, and unfortunately for an event of this scale if even one or two things are missed it can be derailed.”

The only paid position involved with the festival was the executive director, and Oommen said that job has been vacant since the fall. Oommen said a more detailed update will come in news release, which will be issued over the next few weeks once the board has recalibrated. He said those still involved are aiming to return the festival as close to or the same format as it used to be, and fresh faces are being sought on the board to bring about a strong revival.