Penticton’s Peach Festival kicks off today, starting five days of family entertainment and fun in a spectacular setting.
“We truly have something for everyone,” said Don Kendall, Peach Festival president.
The festival, which started in 1947, has grown to be one of the largest free family festivals in Canada, drawing 80,000 people last year. The festival has especially grown over the last few years, with the musical and entertainment options becoming more diverse.
That diversity of the entertainment offered is important, Kendall said, adding that it’s not unusual to see three generations enjoying Peachfest events together.
The fun starts with the SkyHawks, Canada’s only military parachute demonstration team, building fantastic formations in the skies over Okanagan Lake Park, starting at noon, with another performance at 5 p.m. The SkyHawks will also be in the park at 2 p.m. for an autograph session. At noon, the annual Peach Bin race will be getting ready to careen through downtown Penticton along the 100-block of Main Street.
That’s just the start. The afternoon is filled with entertainment in Okanagan Lake Park, from music and dance to a demonstration from the Black Widow Rope Spinners.
With Cod Gone Wild as an opening for him, Canadian music legend Kim Mitchell takes the stage Wednesday evening, the first of a music lineup featuring April Wine, George Canyon and up-and-comer Madeline Merlo, who is up for the Canadian Country Music Association’s female artist of the year award.
“We were lucky to book Madeline Merlo,” said Don Kendall, Peachfest president. “It’s probably the best lineup we’ve ever had.”
But getting top performers and other entertainment doesn’t come by chance.
“It’s a year-round project,” he said, adding that his fellow organizers started work on booking some acts, like the SkyHawks, the week after last year’s Peachfest. Getting Kim Mitchell to Peachfest, he said, has taken four years.
A big part of making Peachfest a growing success is the volunteers, both those that help out throughout the days of the festival, and the board members that volunteer year-round to bring all aspects of the festival together.
“There are a lot of moving parts,” Kendall said.
Keeping the festival free, though, is thanks to sponsors: Peters Bros., Tim Hortons and many more.
That includes sponsoring fun events like the Home Hardware Kid Zone, open 9 a.m. to noon, Wednesday through Friday with children’s performers like Mat Duffus and lots of things to keep the kids busy.
There’s also the Kiddie Parade on Sunday, and, of course, the Peters Bros. Grande Parade on Sunday.
“It’s the largest parade between Vancouver and Calgary,” said Kendall.
Not all the Peachfest action takes place in Okanagan Lake Park. The community has come together to support the festival with events around the city. Besides the Peach Bin races, there is the Pentown Throwdown Skateboard and BMX Competition, a baseball tournament in Lions Park, the Ultra Swim — Canada’s longest open water lake swim, a square dance festival at the Seniors Drop-in Centre, the ReelPeachFest Film Festival and the Sandcastle competition Thursday evening on Skaha Lake Beach.
For more information and a schedule of events during the five-day festival, from Aug. 8 to 12, visit https://peachfest.com/ online.
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
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