The revamped 10-day Okanagan Summer Wine Festival kicked off on the weekend with major events in Kelowna and Penticton.
The festival, which has been held at Silver Star Resort near Vernon for the last nine years, had been one of the smaller of the four wine festivals held each year in the valley.
But the organizers hope that the move to make it a valley-wide event will not only grow the festival but also help other aspects of the local tourism industry.
The festival is a partnership with tourism organizations up and down the valley and is seen as a way to not only provide locals and tourists a wine festival in the summer, but also attract more tourists to the valley at the start of summer.
Centered around four major events—the Kelowna Pop Goes The Cork event on Saturday, the GrandFondo “after party” wine tasting in Penticton on Sunday, a beach party in Osoyoos July 15 and the first ever outdoor wine tasting in Vernon’s Polson Park, complete with spoken word artists providing the entertainment, on July 17—the new-look festival will include 26 other, smaller events during its 10-day run.
According to Blair Baldwin, of the Okanagan Wine Festivals Society, there was growing demand from the wineries to expand the summer festival throughout the valley.
So the move was made to relocate it with the four major events in the four centres and a host of smaller events in between, Baldwin said.
“At this point we have no benchmark to go by, but we are pleased with ticket sales,” said Baldwin at Saturday’s Kelowna event.
The tasting, which featured the products of 30 wineries and an assortment of cheeses, breads and other delicacies, benefitted from perfect weather and drew a crowd of 300.
It was held under a large open-sided tent on the grass common outside the Rotary Centre for the Arts and featured live entertainment.
The next night, even more wine lovers in Penticton gathered for the larger GranFondo Axel Merckx Okanagan wine tasting at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre.
Five hundred tickets were available for that event, which tied the festival to the first of two huge cycling events scheduled for the Central Okanagan this month.
A second granfondo—Italian for big ride—is slated for this weekend between Kelowna and Vernon.
Baldwin said the Osoyoos beach party will take place at the Watermark Beach Resort and, like the Vernon event, is a first for that community.
Baldwin said it took six months of negotiation with the City of Vernon to make the event happen.
More information about the festival and its 30 events is available at the wine festivals society webpage, www.thewinefestivals.com.