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Busker festival a possiblity for Kelowna's new open-concept Bernard Avenue

Buskers could form the basis of a new festival in Kelowna - contributed
Buskers could form the basis of a new festival in Kelowna
— image credit: contributed

If the thought of watching Rubberband Boy break out of his straight jacket at theĀ  Edinburgh Fringe Festival or Busker Burlesque in Christchurch doesn't seem like Okanagan waterfront fare, think again.

Mayor Walter Gray and the Festivals Kelowna director have been simultaneously making inroads on a busking festival for the Okanagan.

"It was just one of those serendipitous things," said Renata Mills, executive director of Festivals Kelowna, as she explained how both her and the mayor came to be talking with The Victoria International Buskers Festival.

Mills met the director of the festival while on business in Victoria, as did the mayor, and the two separate conversations found themselves centre stage in this week's Kelowna city council meeting where the mayor suggested the time to pursue a festival of street performers, or even join forces with the Victoria effort, may have arrived.

Mills says she agrees, particularly as the new Bernard Avenue streetscape and patio options should make expanding the Festival Kelowna's busking program easier this season; although the idea of a full festival is still just a thought that needs exploring, with no defined parameters to date.

"There appears to be political support and that's what you need," said Mills, noting Festivals Kelowna is already expanding its outdoor programming with six days of Parks Alive! concerts each week in the summer season, in addition to the busker program.

Under the busker program, street performers audition, perform in defined busking spots and performers are issued permits to practice their craft, lending an element of legitimacy to naysayers.

She believes it's helped change attitudes in a city where just a decade earlier buskers were treated as beggars and one could compile a scrapbook of complaints about the performances.

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