In a strategic move designed to attract new tourists to the Okanagan, the Okanagan Wine Festivals Society and Okanagan Pride Society have teamed up to present a kick-off event called Viva Las Pride, for this year’s Okanagan Pride Festival in August.
The festival began seven years ago and has so far concentrated on ‘homegrown’ entertainment, explains Wilbur Turner, president of the OPS, but this year’s event will be quite different.
“This year, we’ve hired headliner entertainers and plan to attract lots of people from outside the Okanagan,” he said.
Wider promotion of this year’s week-long pride festival will attract people to this area and show the acceptance and diversity of the Okanagan, he said.
He expects it will attract pride tourists from throughout B.C. and Alberta and showcase the wines of this region in a fun, informal manner.
Wine festivals society president Eric von Krosigk noted, “The growth of pride festivals across Canada is an indication of the importance of pride tourism. It represents a well-educated, travel-oriented and often affluent tourist that loves wine.”
Pride tourism is a growing force, added Blair Baldwin, coordinator of the wine festivals society.
It’s a great fit for the industry to partner with the pride society to present an “eccentric evening at the Laurel,” he noted.
Turner said he expects this year’s event on Fri., Aug. 16, 7 to 9:30 p.m., will be sold out, and he anticipates they’ll be looking for a larger venue for next year.
There’ll be 20 wineries participating, and finger foods will be available, while burlesque dancers entertain and while ‘eye candy’ are walking around. As well, there’ll be gaming tables set up. Turner will emcee the event, dressed in drag and returning to the Oddlee persona he adopted at last year’s festival.
Later that same evening the second annual drag competition will be held featuring professional drag entertainment and celebrity judges. A top drag king and queen will be named. It’s sponsored by the Kelowna Actors Studio.
Turner said they’ll also be bringing in a gay rights activist from Los Angeles, as well as a famous drag queen during the festival.
“I believe the festival will continue to grow,” he said. Last year there were about 800 to 1,000 people involved in the pride festival, but this year he expects there’ll be 1,500 or so.
“You’ll have to book ahead,” he commented.
The pride festival is Aug. 10 through Aug. 17.
Funds raised during the festival go to the ongoing operation of Okanagan Pride, including such programs as Etcetera, for youngsters from 15 to 25 years of age.
“There was nothing here for the LGBT,” explains Brad Therrien, vice-president of Okanagan Pride, so they set up a safe space for youth to be themselves; label-free. It’s inclusive.”
It’s a space for youth, and programs run by youth, he said. It’s an advocacy program run by volunteers, he explained.
However, with the closure of the pride centre in Kelowna, they’re currently looking for a sponsor for a new space where they can begin to meet again next fall, he said.
For tickets and event details, go to www.thewinefestivals.com or www.okanaganpride.com