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Seven decades of Peach Festival

THE PENTICTON PEACH FESTIVAL announced the lineup for its 70th year, with longtime music director Bill Kolter, right, Steve Brown Skaha Lake Ultra Swim Soceity director and Peachfest vice president Rebecca Ogden at the Penticton Lakeside Resort on Jan. 24 with festival pamphlets from years past. The festival returns for its 70th year in August.   - Dale Boyd/Penticton Western News
THE PENTICTON PEACH FESTIVAL announced the lineup for its 70th year, with longtime music director Bill Kolter, right, Steve Brown Skaha Lake Ultra Swim Soceity director and Peachfest vice president Rebecca Ogden at the Penticton Lakeside Resort on Jan. 24 with festival pamphlets from years past. The festival returns for its 70th year in August.
— image credit: Dale Boyd/Penticton Western News

The world was a much different place in 1947, but at least one thing has remained constant as the Penticton Peach Festival returns for its 70th year.

What has kept the festival up and running through multiple generations?

“The two things are A: it’s free, and B: we have something for every member of the family,” said Don Kendall, Peach Festival president

This year’s jam-packed lineup of entertainment and events includes expanded Kiddies Day, the return of the Skaha Lake Ultra Swim, headliners Trooper, Peachfest veterans 54-40 and more.

Check out the headliners: Peachfest announces entertainment lineup

“Bill Kolter (music director) and I often talk about every year how great the festival has been and how big it has grown and how do you top it year after year? This year we started virtually the week after Peach Festival this year,” Kendall said. “It’s very competitive with the number of festivals to line up great entertainment. We were fortunate we got every band we sort of pencilled in and we were able to get.”

As usual, the festival is completely free and is put on with the help of sponsors and volunteers. Continuing to add fresh and exciting events to check out has garnered success, Kendall said.

“I think one of the things that has happened with Peachfest is it hasn’t gotten stagnant. It’s continued to evolve. Adding the Ultra Swim this year, expanding the Home Hardware Kid’s Zone and expanding the motocross to three days I think is fantastic,” Kendall said. “Every year people are amazed at all the new events we have and all the attractions. The fact that we’ve been able to keep it free thanks to sponsors like Peter Bros. and Tim Hortons really makes a difference for families.”

The annual event would be impossible without hundreds volunteers helping before, during and after the festival Kendall said.

“We have 16 directors who work year round on the festival, hundreds of volunteers who work during the festival, but the amount of time and effort from the directors is huge,” Kendall said. “It’s for the community and when you can bring in crowds like we do and bring smiles to people’s faces it makes a big difference.”

This year the Penticton Peach Festival is officially part of the Northwest Festivals Hosting Association, only the second Canadian member to join.

Peachfest joins the Seattle Seafair, the Portland Rose Festival, The Spokane Lilac Festival, the Wenatchee Apple Blossom Festival, the New Westminster Hyack Festival and more.

“We’re able to promote Penticton to all the other festivals which is huge. We give away brochures about Penticton, our float gets to go in all their parades,” Kendall said.

Between TV and live audience members, the Portland Rose Festival parade is viewed by over three million people.

Delegates and representatives from member organizations are coming to Penticton for the Peach Festival as well.

“They’ll fill our hotel rooms and spread the word about Penticton. When we went to the annual meeting last year in Seattle, many of the people in the association from Washington State and Oregon didn’t know where Penticton was,” Kendall said. “Well now they all know where Penticton is and many of them are coming here this August.”

This year’s Peachfest also marks the return, and 20th anniversary, of the Skaha Lake Ultra Swim. The event returns after a 12-year absence.

Related: Skaha Lake Ultra Swim returns

Steve Brown, one of the directors of the Skaha Lake Ultra Swim Society, said there were difficulties finding the right people to take on the event from an organizational and practical standpoint. Finding paddlers and kayaks to support the swimmers was another hurdle which has been overcome as well with the help of businesses like Hoodoo Adventures.

Brown said over the years there has been a growing base inquiring if the event would ever return.

“There’s been a kind of pent-up demand and because we’re all involved in the ultra-distance racing community, we’re in contact with these people and we were getting more and more requests.”

The Skaha Lake Ultra Swim returns to Penticton Aug. 13.

 

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