This past July’s Summer Okanagan Wine Festival may have been the last since it didn’t reach the audience organizers had hoped.
However, the 10-day Fall Okanagan Wine Festival, which will be kicked off next week for the 32nd year, remains the flagship event for the wine festival society, and continues to be rated as one of the top 100 events in North America by the American Bus Association.
General manager for the wine festivals society, Blair Baldwin, says a valley-wide summer festival only lasted two years, but there’s too much competition at that time of year, and visitors are already going to wineries, so there’s really no need for special events.
For eight years prior to that, a weekend summer wine festival was held at Silver Star.
While the board of the society hasn’t yet made the decision to cancel a summer festival, it is considering its options regarding its role, said Baldwin.
Festivals are needed more in the shoulder season and off-peak tourist season in the Okanagan more than in the summer when there are lots of visitors here already, he added.
Instead, signature events, perhaps with various partners, will be planned at different times of year, such as summer and Christmas, he said.
Meanwhile, attendance at the fall festival is expected to be up again this year, with both nights of the Westjet Wine Tastings in Kelowna sold out more than a week ago, with a maximum of 550 at each.
Baldwin notes the fall festival has a brand that is known throughout the world amongst wine-lovers.
In an online poll done by Westjet over a six-month period, it was the third most popular behind the Calgary Stampede and Quebec Winter Carnival, of 46 festivals the airline listed.
“It’s one of the few wine festivals in North America that occurs during harvest which adds to the drama around it,” commented Baldwin.
In a survey done last year, 50 per cent of those attending fall wine festival events were from out of the area, so had to stay at least overnight, while the other half were local.
There are now 111 member wineries of the wine festival society.
Events are happening throughout the valley and are listed online at: www.thewinefestivals.com