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Organizers hoping for bigger impact with Peachfest Aboriginal Cultural Village

Penticton Peach Festival Aboriginal Cultural Village organizer Liz Bent (left), seen here helping a young dancer with his regalia last year, is hoping to draw even more dancers this year. - Penticton Western News file photo
Penticton Peach Festival Aboriginal Cultural Village organizer Liz Bent (left), seen here helping a young dancer with his regalia last year, is hoping to draw even more dancers this year.
— image credit: Penticton Western News file photo

A drumbeat has become the heartbeat of Liz Bent’s life.

“There is no words to explain it. When you hear the drums and get into this frame of mind and a zone there is nothing else,” said Bent, a powwow dancer. “You hear the drumbeat and it is so uplifting.”

Powwow dancing has become such an important part of her, and her family’s life, that she was inspired to do more for her community. It is why she decided to take the lead on organizing the Peachfest Aboriginal Cultural Village to highlight the Okanagan Nation.

Dancing has become the Bent family’s life with trips to powwows all over Canada and the U.S. Now Bent hopes to further that by showing the mass crowds attending the Peach Festival the cultural relevance behind powwows.

“It definitely is a spiritual thing. You would think we would be so exhausted from the heat but this energy takes over you and it feels good, powerful, beautiful. When we are dancing, or our kids are, and you see the faces in the crowd light up, that is why we do it,” she said.

Bent is a firm believer the Aboriginal Cultural Village at Peach Fest is a great way to share knowledge with other First Nation communities and non Aboriginal people people and promote a healthy lifestyle.

“I am really trying to bring this event back and let people know we have made changes to it to make it better than ever before, including adding a competition aspect with a payout for winners,” said Bent.

She has been busy recruiting dancers to come to Penticton and putting up posters to help spread the word.

“People love Penticton, and also the fact that Peachfest is happening, there is so much going on and entertainment that I am hoping to pull lots of dancers in,” said Bent.

Opening ceremonies will be held on Aug. 8 at 3:30 p.m. with performances by Richard Armstrong, Aimee Lezard, Kaykaitkw Hall, Aboriginal hand drummers and more to be announced.

“We are trying to highlight the Okanagan Nation on this night with all performances that are Okanagan relevant. We want to go back to having performances that have cultural relevance,” said Bent. “Highlighting the Okanagan Nation is my biggest goal.”

There will also be a special guest performance by Skookem Sound. The only non-Okanagan performing that evening will be Maddie McCallum, a renowned Metis Jigger.

On Aug. 8 and 9 the Grand Entry is at 1 p.m. with the powwow competition beginning after that. The host drum is High Water, who are mostly from the Similkameen region. They are very well known to dancers and recently performed in California.

“These two days will be the contemporary powwow and that is all nations can come including non-natives. An intertribal dance will also take place with everyone invited to join in, native or non-native. This is to include the crowd to break down the barriers and to get people up dancing and having fun,” said Bent. “We don’t want people worrying about what is right or wrong or who is supposed to do what. We just want them to get out dance and have fun all together.”

The Peachfest Aboriginal Cultural Village and powwow is unique in that traditional powwows are held on First Nation lands. It also means adhering to guidelines set out by the city for vendors. Bent has been proactive, hosting food safe courses and information sessions with Interior Health.

“I love this work and co-ordinating this event. It has been a learning curve, but the Peachfest board has been very supportive. I have put a lot of time and energy into this as a volunteer and I want to do that because I want it to be a great event,” said Bent. “I hope I am building a foundation so the backbone will be created for the next person to take it over.”

Events are free and open to the public and food vendors and native arts and crafts tables will be selling their wares. For more information visit www.Peachfest.com.

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