Never before has a summer concert meant so much to the future of the Kettle River Museum in Midway. This year’s event on Aug. 31, featuring Kelowna country musician Ben Klick, is an opportunity for the museum to make up lost revenues from fires, floods and construction delays.
“Our annual concert is more important than ever this year,” said the museum’s managing director, Stephanie Boltz.
“The last four years of fires, smoke and floods all had an effect on the museum,” Boltz said. She estimated that visitation has dropped by roughly half since 2015 – a result she attributes to the difficult summer months of natural disasters and smoke in the region.
In turn, the unforeseen events delayed the museum’s latest addition: a 12-bed bunkhouse located at Mile 0 of the Kettle Valley Railway.
Where museum staff hoped to have the tourist draw completed last January, the project was pushed to open six months later in June – something Boltz attributes to contractors being occupied with other recovery projects in the region.
A delayed opening meant delayed advertising too, meaning that travellers from Europe and across Canada might have already made plans for accommodations before news of the bunkhouse’s availability became public.
In the future, Boltz said, the aim is to have the bunkhouse generate around 50 per cent of the museum’s total revenue needed to run. This summer, through only little coverage and word-of-mouth on the trail, they’ve welcomed a visitor or two per week, Boltz said.
“Our hope is that next year will have more momentum and we won’t have any disasters.
“Our season is short and we depend on tourism and locals for support.”
Five years ago the museum put on a fundraising concert and all the proceeds – approximately $23,000 – went to help support residents rebuild and recover after the Rock Creek fire that year.
Now, the museum is looking for the community’s support to ensure that the records of the West Boundary can continue to be compiled, stored and shared with visitors and residents alike.
Where she hopes the crowd for the concert will number around 300 – half the population of Midway – Boltz insisted that, because the museum covers history from Boundary Falls up to Sidley in the west and past Carmi to the north, there’s a range of people who could be interested in maintaining their region’s history.
Tickets for the Aug. 31 Ben Klick concert are $20 for adults and free for children. Gates open at 6 p.m.