Naturalists club spawns new event to celebrate the coming of spring

Judie Steeves

staff reporter

A new event with dozens of activities around the region, will debut in April to mark the Central Okanagan Naturalists’ Club’s 50th anniversary this year.

The first Sunflower Festival: A Day With Naturalists, celebrates the flowering on Okanagan hillsides of the arrow-Leaved balsamroot, commonly called the Okanagan sunflower, explains Fiona Flook, president of the CONC.

In all, 11 events will be held from Peachland through Kelowna on Saturday, April 30, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., each at a nominal fee intended just to cover the cost of putting on the event.

Organizing committee member Hugh Westheuser says it’s a way the club can do something for the community.

With the slogan “To know nature and keep it worth knowing,” naturalists hope to involve more people in knowing nature, with this festival, explains Flook.

And the iconic sunflower of the Okanagan is the perfect symbol.

“We’re losing hillsides of balsamroot to houses,” she said.

Westheuser added that  “kids are getting disconnected from nature.”

If there’s a good reaction to the community to the club’s festival, it’s possible the volunteers might organize a similar festival in following years, he says. “We’re hoping to show people a few places they can go to learn more about our natural spaces,” added Flook.

They also hope to encourage some new members to join the CONC.

The first event of the day will be an early morning birding event with ornithologist and author Dick Cannings, meeting at the EECO at 6 a.m.

At 8 a.m., Kelowna Mayor Sharon Shepherd will open the festival at the EECO, where Pat Westheuser and her crew will be flipping pancakes until 10 a.m.

Inside the EECO, CONC artist Linley McKenna and friends will display their original paintings and photographs from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

At 9 a.m., a bus will leave the EECO for Scenic Canyon Regional Park, where botanist and author George Scotter and geologist Robert Young will conduct an interpretive hike to a spot for you to eat your picnic lunch, returning at 1:30 p.m.

Another bus leaves the EECO at 10 a.m. for an interpretive walk in Knox Mountain Park with geologist Murray Roed. This will be repeated at 1:30 p.m.

Park interpreter Scott Alexander will lead a couple of walks through Kalamoir Regional Park in West Kelowna at 10 a.m. and  noon.

At 1:30 p.m., teacher and historian Chris Byrd will lead a GPS-based geocaching treasure hunt beginning at the EECO.

The CONC Young Naturalists will help youngsters five to 10 years of age interpret nature through games at the EECO, from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.

Traditional uses of plants for medicine and food will be discussed at the Kekuli Restaurant in West Kelowna by Leonard Raphael of the Merritt First Nation, while participants taste such traditional food as bannock, smoked salmon and soopolallie ice cream. It’s from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m..

The bats of Peachland will be discussed by biologist and bat expert Tanya Luszcz at the Little Schoolhouse prior to a short walk to the largest bat colony in the province at the Old Primary School, 7 to 9 p.m.

The downside to the whole festival is there will only be space for about 250 people to participate this year, in order that there is lots of opportunity for people to interact with the group leaders at each of the activities, explained Flook.

That means the limited tickets must be purchased in advance, and the events will go on, rain or shine.

Those purchasing tickets by cheque must do so before April 10, by sending it in to the address on the website where more details are available:

They are also available at the Kelowna Farmers’ Market April 16, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; at Byland’s Garden Centre, April 17 and 23, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and Art Knapp’s Plantland, April 17 and 23, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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