The 69th annual Penticton Peach Festival just finished days ago and we are already looking ahead to big number 70.
I would like to thank the hundreds of volunteers work countless hours to make Peachfest a success; the 16 directors who plan year-round to try to make it bigger and better every year and the dozens of sponsors and vendors who make it possible for us to host the largest free festival in Western Canada — perhaps in the entire country.
Peach Festival is special. Everyone can afford to have fun at Peach Festival. Where else can three generations of families enjoy free entertainment, in an alcohol-free environment, in a world-class setting?
During the five days of Peachfest, I was thanked countless times by people whom I have never met before. It is comments like this that make the directors and volunteers come back year after year:
A woman from Jasper, Alta., thanked me for the “incredible, free entertainment.”
Another woman told me how special it was that she could enjoy Peach Festival with her parents from Fort St. John.
A family from Calgary said they plan their summer vacation, every year, around Peach Festival and asked me the dates for next year.
A young man from Vancouver asked how we can afford to host free concerts with bands like Honeymoon Suite?
Speaking of Honeymoon Suite, a note from their road manager, “Thank you again for an amazing gig.”
Music legend Bill Henderson of Chilliwack wrote, “Thanks Don for all the work you and your volunteers do. It was a great event. I’m so glad you made it alcohol free.”
There is always a few complaints, but for such a massive event run by volunteers receiving just a few complaints is a compliment to all the great work those behind the scenes are doing.
With next year being our big anniversary we hope to see all our hardworking volunteers back and that they bring along a friend so we can keep making this the premiere event in Penticton and the Okanagan.
One of the highlights for me was the introduction of the President’s Award for outstanding contribution to Peach Festival. The first-year recipients were: Peters Bros. Construction, which has been the festival’s major sponsor for many years; Bill Kolter, who has been a director for 23 years; the Vancouver Police Motorcycle Drill Team, which made their first appearance in the Peters Bros. Grand Parade in 1974; and the incredible Seattle All-City Band, which brought 180 people to Penticton for their eighth appearance in the parade.
Other highlights included: huge crowds for the free entertainment in Okanagan Lake Park. On four nights, attendance was estimated at 7,000 people. Twenty-six of the 43 groups or individuals (60 per cent) who performed in the park were local.
According to MLA Dan Ashton (who has been in the parade every year for more than a decade), there were a record number of spectators along the Peters Bros. Grand Parade route. The parade attracted 100 entries, including 11 marching bands.
The sandcastle competition had a record 27 entries.
For the first time, the Sheila Bishop Memorial Slowpitch Tournament had 16 teams.
For four days, The Seniors Drop-in Centre was filled to capacity with square dancers.
A charity barbecue, held in conjunction with the Pentown Throwdown BMX and skateboard event raised more than $1,100 for Penticton Regional Hospital.
Mega Motocross made its Peach Festival debut and thrilled thousands of spectators on Main Street.
The Peach Bin Race attracted a record number of eight teams.
Hundreds of youngsters took part in the DPA Kiddies Day Parade and A&W Kiddies Day, in Okanagan Lake Park.
The second annual Chefs Cook-off was a blast for participants and spectators
The Reel Peachfest Film Festival, on the Tim Hortons Screen, attracted more than 20 entries.
And, there were thousands of smiles!
Mark your calendars, the 70th annual Peach Festival is Aug. 9-13, 2017. Hope to see you all there.
Don Kendall is the president of the Penticton Peach Festival