An event that will draw more than 4,500 people to town has another 450 volunteers pitching in to pull it all together.
The Funtastic slo-pitch tournament and music festival (plus lawn bowling) officially swings into action today in Vernon, Armstrong and Enderby.
“It’s the biggest one in Canada,” said Funtastic president Brett Kirkpatrick.
Volunteers have been tirelessly working since Monday to put all the pieces in place, and their efforts will continue through to Monday when the event wraps up, and even after for clean-up.
“Everybody up here that does it, they enjoy it,” said Will Alborough, volunteering for his third straight year, this time with his dad. “A lot of them have been doing it for 16, 17 years.”
They are ambassadors not just for Funtastic, but for the community, says Kirkpatrick.
“I get a lot of people come up to me, thanking us for everything,” he said, adding that it wouldn’t be possible without the volunteers. Between putting up fences and grading diamonds to selling beverage tickets and doing sound checks behind stage, they make it happen.
“We are a go,” said Kirkpatrick, adding that despite recent rain, fields are drying up nicely for game time.
Games take place at fields throughout the communities, with the first pitch being tossed at 5:15 p.m. tonight and finals wrapping up Monday.
But the centre of all the action is up at the DND grounds, where the diamonds will be in full swing and the beverage gardens will be packed with fun.
The gardens, which open at noon today and 11 a.m. the rest of the weekend, feature a rockin’ lineup of bands and entertainment.
“We have a very good lineup this year and a lot of people are excited about it,” said Kirkpatrick, noting the gardens will be open until 2 a.m. every night, 5 p.m. Monday, and free shuttle buses are provided.
Tonight’s two opening acts, Headpins and Orio with Katrina Lawrence, get the party started at 6 p.m. before Kenny Shields and Streetheart take the stage.
Lou Gramm of Foreigner is all set for Saturday, following a trio of openers: Mace, Lift Off and The Dirt.
Canada Day openers are We Are Live and Aerosmith Rocks, then fireworks are set off at 10:15 p.m., followed by Trooper.
“We can fit 6,000 people up there,” said Kirkpatrick, adding that the event is selling well, but isn’t sold out, yet.
On top of all the locals and tourists drawn in solely for the entertainment, the event hosts 300 teams (representing 4,500 ball players plus another 600 to 1,000 spouses and kids). Of those, an estimated 80 per cent are from out of town.
“A lot of people from Alberta come to play, it’s a destination and often they’ll stay a few extra days and turn it into a holiday. Some have come for 20 years and they make it a reunion.
“The impact is $4.4 million for the weekend and then we get to donate back on top of it,” said Kirkpatrick, as the Funtastic Society raises in excess of $125,000 annually for local sports groups and projects.