Culture Days celebrated across Central Okanagan

Events planned for the 7th annual Culture Days from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2 in Kelowna, West Kelowna, Westbank First Nation and Peachland.

Sensiyusten school on the Westbank First Nation reserve.

An exciting weekend filled with art, music and culture is just around the corner with the seventh annual Culture Days descending across the Central Okanagan from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2.

More than 50 activities and events alone will be popping up just within Kelowna’s, while events are also planned for West Kelowna, Westbank First Nation and Peachland.

“Culture Days is a feast of educational and outside-the-box arts and culture experiences that only happen once a year,” said Sandra Kochan, City of Kelowna cultural services manager.

“Event organizers are really expanding our cultural horizons, with activities ranging from a presentation about the history of architecture to salsa dancing.

“You don’t even need to commit to a specific event to catch the Culture Days vibe – take a walk downtown or through the Cultural District and you’ll see art in storefront windows, open doors and a truly vibrant atmosphere. It’s all free and many of the activities are designed for families.”

The weekend is jam-packed, starting with an open viewing of Ballet Kelowna’s Friday morning class at 9 a.m. right through to operatic performances on Sunday evening. The city is offering two-hour Cultural District walking tours on Friday and Saturday, a repeat of very successful tours which were offered during July and August.

“One would think that only out-of-town visitors would be interested in these tours, but our tracking indicates that about 25 per cent of attendees were local,” said Kochan. “We love sharing the story of the district and maybe we’ve inspired some new local experts who will now feel quite comfortable showing people around and passing the story along.”

“Most of all, we really encourage people to loosen up and try something new,” added Kochan. “How often do you get a chance to help create a hotel for bees, experience a traditional tea ceremony in Kasugai Gardens, or try out amazing multicultural dances like Egyptian, Hawaiian or Flamenco? About two million Canadians take part each year – and 98 per cent of them were happy they did.”

Discover all the events happening throughout Kelowna this weekend on the Culture Days event listing page online at culturedays.ca. You can search for Kelowna events and create your weekend itinerary. Click on ‘Activities’ on the homepage and enter ‘Kelowna’ to see what’s happening here.

Meanwhile,   Westbank First Nation, the City of West Kelowna and Peachland Community Arts Council will kick off their own Cultura Day celebration starting on Friday.

“Arts and culture contribute to a positive quality of life and well-being and are at the heart of the creative economy, one of the most rapidly growing sectors in the world. BC Culture Days is a time for all British Columbians to celebrate the creativity and vibrancy found in every community throughout our province,” said Peter Fassbender, provincial minister of community, sport and cultural development.

Due to anticipated weather conditions, the BC Culture Days provincial launch will take place at the Sensisyusten School Gym, 1920 Quail Ln, on Friday from 4 to 7 p.m.

The provincial launch is presented in cooperation with the Suk’wtemsqilx’w West Kelowna Arts Council (SWAC), an arts council uniting the two communities of West Kelowna and Westbank First Nation through cultural partnerships and collaboration.

SWAC is the first organization of its kind in B.C., conceived as a result of the overwhelming enthusiasm surrounding the inaugural Westside Culture Days in 2014.

Artists, businesses and community members came together to celebrate the arts and cultural life of both Westbank First Nation and West Kelowna communities, creating a unified sense of partnership and cultural identity.

In 2015, Westside ranked #1 across Canada in their population category for the highest number of registered Culture Days activities.

“This year, Westside Culture Days is coordinated by SWAC; it is, after all, where the arts council came from and why we are here. The Westside is huge, but encompasses two main communities: Westbank First Nation and West Kelowna and now, we are thrilled to welcome the City of Peachland as well,” said Julia Trops, SWAC chair.

Festivities will begin Friday with a stage program hosted by Westbank First Nation councillor Chris Derrickson, and will include an Orange Shirt Day ceremony in honour of residential school survivors. The public is invited to view performances, take part in workshops and demos, and enjoy food from a variety of local vendors.

The evening will feature a range of onstage entertainment, including a dance performance by Westbank First Nation’s Candice Jack, storytelling presented by Westbank First Nation representative, Jordan Coble, and musical performances by Peachland Variety Singers, Rachel Layne, Marty Edwards, and Bjorn Kriel.

“Our artists are open-hearted and diverse and welcome all levels of ability and knowledge. Whether the public lives on the Westside or the outside, they have so many opportunities to engage with our artists and partners, from supplemental and secret techniques to learning how to do something themselves. Learning equals empowerment in our formula,” said Trops.

Culture Days was conceived in response to the growing recognition that a vibrant arts and cultural sector contributes directly to a healthy and economically-diverse society. Individual artists, cultural groups, organizations, municipalities, and festivals offer free, participatory, and interactive arts and cultural activities during the Culture Days weekend each year.

Culture Days represents the largest-ever collective public participation campaign undertaken by the arts and cultural community in Canada.