Friday’s Fat Cat felled by feuding teachers and province

The Fat Cat Festival suffers from teachers' strike.

The Fat Cat Festival is a hotly anticipated tradition for a number of Kelowna kids, but it’s one many will miss out on this year due to contract strife between teachers and the province.

Doors to the weekend-long event are usually opened to schools on the Friday, and busloads of children are brought to the festival grounds to partake in the frivolity. This year, however, that won’t be the case.

“The teachers, prior to the lockout said they’d be coming so long as there wasn’t a a rotating strike that day, and there isn’t, but the lockout means they can’t supervise the kids over the lunch hour,” said the event’s artistic director, Dorothee Birker.

That means, the vast majority of teachers simply aren’t able to bring the kids to the festival.

Parents, she said, have volunteered to do some of the supervisory work, but Birker pointed out that it’s not enough to let the show go on.

The only students who will get the field trip will be those who go to   schools located within close proximity to the festival grounds and can get the most out of a half-day at the event, she said.

The loss of business will have a financial impact on the festival, but Birker said the bigger disappointment is seeing fewer smiling faces at the event.

“It’s my favourite day,” she said.

“I’m very emotional about it. It’s not something that any of us can control, but the energy those students bring  is fantastic.”

Birker said that students are much more enthusiastic when they’re with their classmates and have the freedom to explore the event with a large group of their peers.

“For us there’s huge disappointment that the teachers can’t bring their students,” she said. “But I know the teachers would be here. Their enthusiasm for coming is as big as mine, and their disappointment for not being able to do this is also just as big.”

What may lessen the blow to the festival, however, is that Birker is extending an invitation to preschools, parents who home school, and any other children who may be able to attend that day.

“It’s a great day to bring kids,” she said.

Also, festival hours have extended until 4 p.m. that day, so if parents want to take their children when class is over, they’re welcome to go.

“We have the workshops that the schools would be doing that will be open for everybody to do now,” she said.

There will still be over 30 Activity Stations with hands-on, creative learning opportunities including fabulous facilitated workshops like Djembe Drumming, Brazillian Percussion, Pottery, Found Art, Circus Yoga and more. On stage will be Bobby Bovenzi and Nankama West African Drumming, Kiki the Eco Elf, PT the Clown and Stories on Wheels. Roaming the Festival grounds will be Jack Bailey Juggler and Trixie the Clown among others.  Volunteers are ready to paint faces, punk up hair and get kids engaged in Icky Sticky Tactile messes.

The final preparations and countdown are on but there are still some opportunities for people to get involved with the Parade presented by YVR Vancouver International Airport.  This year the Festival features a Kiddie Brigade where kids are invited to dress up and join the parade – and one child will be chosen to be the Grand Marshall and lead the way.  Registrations are online or contact Dorothee at 250-860-4911 for more information.

The Interior Savings Fat Cat Children’s Festival has been bringing smiles to children’s faces in the Okanagan since 1990 and offers a myriad of experiential activities and performances that inspire children’s curiosity and creativity. A dedicated volunteer Board creates magical experiences that with the support of sponsors, community organizations and volunteers deliver a remarkable family festival. Admission is $5 per person or $15 for a Family of 4.  Early Bird Family Passes are available at all Interior Savings branches from Lake Country to West Kelowna for only $10.

Kelowna Capital News

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