Without Regatta, what’s going to be Kelowna's 'signature' event? | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Without Regatta, what’s going to be Kelowna's 'signature' event?

The Aquatic was the centre of the Kelowna Regatta until in burned down in 1969. That contributed to the slow decline of Regatta until it was cancelled in 1988. A new Kelowna events strategy is looking to start, slowly, growing a "signature" event for the city.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK/The new aquatic

Vernon has its Winter Carnival and Penticton has its Peachfest.

But, since the Aquatic burned down in 1969 and the Regatta slowly faded into oblivion until it was cancelled in 1988 following two years of riots, Kelowna has lacked such a community-wide signature event.

READ MORE: Remembering the Aquatic: One of the Okanagan's most beloved summertime structures

That may start to change this summer but, given that it has taken five years for the City to get to the stage of hosting a “one-day family-oriented event” that will “grow slowly and organically to reflect all of Kelowna,” a truly signature event may still be many years away.

Earlier this week, city council adopted its Kelowna Event Strategy with barely a comment from councillors, other than Luke Stack saying he’s looking forward to learning more about an, as yet, secret event to be held Aug. 27.

Work on the strategy started in 2017 with a “system review,” consultations, strategy sessions and more.

The 25-page strategy lists four goals centred around developing new events and venues as well as supporting existing events.

Despite being five years in the making, the next step is to develop an action plan, starting with the formation of a committee.

While that’s happening, a “city-led organizing committee comprised of community residents” is in the process of planning a one-day “signature” event.

A signature event is defined as an “annual community event designed to celebrate Kelowna’s identity showcasing a diverse set of entertainment, creatively and local flavours.”

Those consulted during the strategy developing process said music is the most popular element, followed by things like art, water/land sports, heritage and competition.

“The feedback was positive and suggested any such event should be community focused, family oriented, grown slowly and organically to ensure its successful growth and reflect all of Kelowna,” Chris Babcock, the city’s event development supervisor, told city council.

Coun. Ryan Donn was not able to attend the council meeting because he was busy putting on an event in Lake Country as part of his job as administrator of Creekside Theatre.

Given his background, Donn is likely the best councillor to judge the city's new event strategy. He told iNFOnews.ca that Kelowna does a good job of putting on events but the city has one major shortfall.

“We’re lacking producers that have the capacity and have survived the pandemic,” he said. “It’s hard for municipalities to support producers, other than the event infrastructure assistance grants."

During COVID the city accumulated $400,000 in that budget so event organizers have a resource to access, with or without a formal events strategy.

Along with the “signature event,” that may help turn Kelowna into the “eventful city” the strategy envisions.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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