Penticton festival’s future in doubt

Shortage of board members threatens to silence Penticton Kiwanis Music Festival

Cody Thompson of Kaleden prepares for his piano solo under the watchful eye of adjudicator Michael Oike of Winnipeg

Cody Thompson of Kaleden prepares for his piano solo under the watchful eye of adjudicator Michael Oike of Winnipeg

The Penticton Kiwanis Music, Dance and Speech Arts Festival is in dire straits due to a lack of bodies to fill critical positions.

“I am really trusting this will go ahead but it is very scary,” said Lorna Bull, secretary for the festival. “I think it would be a huge loss to the community.”

Bull said the non-profit festival is in need of a president, vice-president, treasurer and enough board members to function past the date of the annual general meeting that takes place this Thursday.

“The festival really is one of the very few places that kids have to showcase their artistic talents in dance, music and speech arts. We need so badly to foster anything that will motivate, interest and entertain the youth in this city and outlying areas. We simply can’t let this go,” said Bull.

The annual festival, held each April, saw 1,400 entries during its 86th year in 2012 from performers all over the Okanagan and as far away as Trail and Kamloops. The talent ranges from piano, choral music, classical voice, instrumental, musical theatre, speech arts, classical/modern dance and stage dance.

Performers are judged by esteemed adjudicators in each of the disciplines. Bull said it gives the performers, who range in age from five to 20 years old, a goal to work towards during the year while working with their teachers. Those who earn top marks go on to the provincial festival.

Festival co-ordinator Lorraine Alatalo said losing the festival will also take a toll on the students in the scholarships and bursaries they can win. She said last year they handed out $7,000 to students competing in Penticton. That money can be used to help pay for the students’ lessons the following year or any equipment they need.

Bull said the loss of so many volunteer board members came as a sudden surprise to them. During their meeting in June to recap the whole year, they found out the president would stay on as past-president but that person was travelling quite a bit and simply wouldn’t be there to provide that much assistance. The festival board also knew the vice-president was moving to Nova Scotia.

“In our September meeting we discovered that our treasurer would also like to relinquish that role and that we had three or four board members who were going to go onto other things. It kind of hit us as a bit of a surprise,” said Bull.

“We sent out an SOS letter to all the arts teachers in town, asking them to distribute these letters to their parents and to come out to a information meeting we held recently at the Leir House. Unfortunately it was not successful.”

It is why this Thursday’s meeting at 9:30 a.m. at 390 Brunswick St. has become so critical. Bull said they need a monthly commitment from people who carry out some of the jobs that have to be done in order for the festival to continue.

The registration for the festival has to be done online in December, although Bull said they would like to get it up earlier than that, adjudicators need to be in place, venues booked and the syllabus corrected and revised.

“I’m thinking that there could be somebody out there that could keep our books for us that might not know much about music or dance but knows a lot about bookkeeping and accounting. There also may be somebody out there really interested in the arts who thinks they could lead this group, help run the meetings and give some direction,” said Bull.

For more information on how to become involved, organizers are asking for people to attend Thursday’s meeting, in addition interested parties can visit or contact Lorraine Alatalo at 250-493-8322 or by email at

“I have been working with the festival since about 1980 and I have seen so much remarkable talent and nothing but appreciation and good sportsmanship on the part of these young people. They are really wonderful young people and I just hate to see this opportunity lost,” said Bull.


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