Record crowds at Penticton Peach Festival

Not even Mother Nature could dampen the spirits of fun seekers at this year’s 68th annual Penticton Peach Festival.

Barney Bentall and the Legendary Hearts

Barney Bentall and the Legendary Hearts

Not even Mother Nature could dampen the spirits of fun seekers at this year’s 68th annual Penticton Peach Festival.

From all estimates nearly every event from the musical entertainment, RCAF Snowbirds and parades to the outside venues attracted near or record audience numbers in spite of the inclemency.

“It was great, a huge success, weather gave us a bit of a challenge on two nights but even with the rain on Wednesday and the wind on Saturday it was fantastic,” said Peachfest president Don Kendall. “Obviously it was a little disappointing for us because he (Barney Bentall) is such a great entertainer and we would have had thousands of people in the park if it wasn’t raining. At one point we did a rough estimate there were a thousand people standing in the pouring rain watching the shows that was a real highlight for me.”

Bentall, who performed with the Legendary Hearts for the first time since 2013, reminisced about his early years in the music business when he played as an unknown at the Peachfest and how great it was to be back.

Strong winds shut down operations for a brief period Saturday night and while a few people left the park, Kendall noted by the end of the evening it was packed again.

“Certainly Friday night for George Canyon and Thursday night for 54-40 they were two of the biggest crowds in Peachfest history,” he said. “Both nights the park was filled by 7 p.m.

“And all the other events went well … the parade on Saturday, MLA Dan Ashton has ridden in so many parades and he said he thought this year’s was the biggest crowd yet.”

Billed as five days of free family fun, other special events included the annual downtown Peach Bin races, Shooting Star Amusements midway, square dance festival, sandcastle competition, first annual chef’s cook off, crowning of Miss Penticton, Sheila Bishop Memorial Wooden Bat Slopitch Tournament, PenTown Throwdown Skateboard and BMX competition and Steamfest Regatta.

Peachfest this year kicked off, for the second time in three years,with the aerobatic ballet of the RCAF Snowbirds. For the 24-member Snowbird team, their presence was visible as much on the ground as in the air. Prior to their show, they floated down the Okanagan River Channel and competed in the second annual Peach Bin race, knocking off the defending champions 30 Minute Hit to take the trophy then turned the hardware over to the Summerland — Penticton Boys and Girls Clubs for safe keeping.

“The Snowbirds really get involved and I think it’s a real credit to their commander (team lead Major Patrick Gobeil) he really wanted the guys to get involved in the community and it really showed,” said Kendall. “They certainly add a lot to the festival and we’re hoping they come back next year.”

Kendall also credited the contributions of all the sponsors, including Peters Bros. Construction, once again for making the event possible.

“Without all of these people, along with the volunteers, this wouldn’t happen,” he said. “The thing that people really like is that, A, it’s a family event, there is no beer garden and B, it’s free, everybody can afford to go.”

Kendall added it wasn’t just spectators but everyone from entertainers to vendors who passed along their compliments to festival organizers. The date for the 2016 Peach Fest is Aug. 3-7.

“Every year we say, ‘what can we do better, how can we improve and our first meeting is in 10 days,” said Kendall. “This is a year-round commitment and the fact we can do it with all volunteers is something special.”