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Burnett: Benvoulin Church celebrates 120 years this weekend
Here in the Okanagan Valley and, for that matter, anywhere west of Ontario, history when it comes to non-aboriginal influence is only a couple of hundred years and almost half of that is quite sparse.
It wasn’t until the 1860s when European settlers began to recognize this beautiful part of Canada as a place to raise a family, do business and enjoy a comfortable lifestyle.
With this in mind when we celebrate the construction of a building which is 120-years-old it is quite an event.
This weekend the Central Okanagan Heritage Society is celebrating the 120th anniversary of the original opening of the Benvoulin Heritage Church which opened its doors as a Presbyterian place of worship, later to become a United Church until it closed in 1964.
For a few years, it was used as a youth centre and I recall playing there with my rock and roll band Strange Movies in the late 1960s.
For a while it looked like the building would meet a similar fate to other old buildings that were past their prime; however, in 1982 the COHS began a campaign to restore it. The rescue mission was successful, and now this beautiful little church building is enjoyed by so many while attending weddings, memorials and other celebrations of life.
The Central Okanagan Heritage Society invites everyone to help celebrate this exciting anniversary.
The festivities begin this Saturday with opening speeches at 10:15 a.m. and continue throughout the day and again on Sunday.
These include a Heritage art display and sale in Reid Hall. Also, there will be guided tours of the site which is also the home to the McIver House and the beautiful gardens surrounding it. Entertainment will be provided by musical groups such as the Iriskele Celtic Duo, Aaron Gordon and Alisa Parker. On Saturday afternoon James Avery will put on a concert at 2:30. Sunday morning at 11 a.m. there will be a church service conducted by retired Presbyterian Minister Reverend Lorna Hillian. At 2 p.m. there will be a concert by Alisa Parker.
People are encouraged to bring their lawn chairs and a picnic lunch. Beverages and home made cupcakes will be available for dessert for a small fee, otherwise there is no charge for this wonderful family event.
I encourage anyone who enjoys living here in the Central Okanagan to take in the weekend celebration at Benvoulin Heritage Park.
It is a fact that when the church was built it was thought this would be the terminus of the planned railway and therefore be the centre of the new community of Kelowna. I think it is somewhat ironic that today it almost is at the geographical centre of a much expanded city.
Thank you to the City of Kelowna and the Central Okanagan Heritage Society for preserving this beautiful place.
For more information go to www.okheritagesociety.com.