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Candy Cane Lane tradition

Candy Cane Lane in Springvalley has become an annual tradition for many Kelowna families.

With 40 houses participating and thousands of lights adorning the street, it’s a popular spot and it is all for a good cause.

"The main reason we do this, not only for people to come and enjoy the lights, but really to help out the community itself,” says Candy Cane Lane Organizer Damjan Madjar.

Visitors to Candy Cane Lane are asked to bring non-perishable donations on their visit and place them in the very bright, very obvious food collection bin located at the corner of Collison Road and Gramiak Road.

“We donate it to the women’s and men’s shelter directly, so it is awesome, they are very appreciative every year.”

Last year with your donations 6,000 pounds of food was delivered to shelters, a number they hope to meet or break this year.

All the lights go up in early December and run until Jan 1. Lights turn on at dusk and the public is always welcome, donations in hand, until about 10 p.m.

“People should come just to see the lights, it is spectacular, I love driving up and down the street,” says Madjar. “Sometimes I’ll be coming home one way and because I live on a corner and I will miss my house and I will keep going just because I want to see the rest of the lights.”

This Saturday, Dec. 20. Candy Cane Lane will be holding a special event starting at 6:30 p.m. featuring performances and treats donated from Tim Hortons.

Donations are welcome and kids can even look forward to snagging a coveted Shaw Bear.

For more details on Candy Cane Lane check out their website here and their Facebook page here. 

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Pedestrians struck

A red pick-up truck struck two pedestrians at the intersection of Bernard Ave. and Richter St. at approximately 5:20 p.m. on Thursday.

RCMP report that the pedestrians were both conscious at the scene and have been transported to Kelowna General Hospital. Their condition is unknown.



Convict testifies in Ellis trial

When the attempted murder trial for Michael Edward Ellis resumed Thursday in Kelowna, a familiar face took the witness stand.

It was Ellis’ former co-accused, Shawn Wysynski, who is currently serving a nine-year sentence for his part in a police shootout and subsequent chase down Westside Road in 2012.

Ellis, Wysynski and Ashley Collins each faced over one dozen charges including attempted murder and various firearms offences after allegedly firing at police; Collins and Wysynski were sentenced in October.

Previous testimony from witnesses at the trial have pointed to Ellis as the driver and ringleader, but Wysynski testified today that was not the case.

Although more than two years have passed since the time of the offence, Wysynski appeared to recall the events quite clearly, barely hesitating as he repeated thoughts he had and phrases he said to Ellis, Collins and Joseph Elie. 

Elie, Wysynski's brother-in-law, jumped out of the moving vehicle soon after the first shots were fired at RCMP.

Wysynski testified that after being up for four or five days doing methamphetamine and heroin, Collins, Ellis, Elie and himself were in a McDonalds parking lot in West Kelowna preparing to collect on a drug debt.

He said the day before the chase, he had become suspicious that someone was following them, although Ellis and Elie didn't believe him.

As they departed McDonalds, first one and then a second unmarked police car began following them. Wysynski instructed Ellis to "start driving like a maniac" and to put the public in danger, saying he believed the police would choose to call off the chase.

After an undetermined distance and with the cars still behind them, Wysynski, who had been sitting in the front passenger seat told Elie, who was in the back, to change with him. Shortly afterward he started firing at the grill of the unmarked car in an effort to make them call off the chase.

After the first shots were fired, the two unmarked vehicles stopped and Elie bailed from the vehicle which was still travelling an estimated 70 km/h. 

Wysynski said Elie looked "like a cartoon" as he tried to run as fast as the van before cartwheeling down the side of the road. 

"I didn't see him jump out, but I saw him trying to run and I thought it was pretty funny," he said.

Wysynski's glee did not last, however – he was furious that Elie, a childhood friend, had bailed on him and said he threatened to shoot Ellis and Collins if they tried to flee also.

"If any of you other f***ers think you're faster than a bullet, try it," he said. "If you bail, I'm shooting."

The chase continued along Westside Road and included several carjackings and exchanges of gunfire with RCMP, eventually culminating in Ashley Collins getting shot in the abdomen, which resulted in the loss of a kidney and her unborn child.

Throughout his testimony Wysynski reiterated, that to his knowledge, Ellis never had a gun and only drove and paid attention to the road. 

"To be honest, I'm not going to hand someone a gun that I just basically threatened," Wysynski said. "[When I say] 'If you're gonna take off, I'm gonna shoot you', I'm not gonna hand them a gun."

However, in cross examination Crown prosecutor Murray Kaay quickly began to poke holes in Wysynski's version of the events.

During his trial, Wysynski had asked for a pre-sentence report which included an agreed upon statement of facts. In that statement, the driver of a PT Cruiser testified that Ellis also had a gun and threatened her with it.

Then Kaay got Wysynski to admit he didn't want to say anything that could build a case against Ellis, and didn't admit to doing the shooting in his own trial in order to mitigate his own sentence. 

The admissions were surprising but not particularly risky.

Under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Evidence Act, what a witness says in one proceeding cannot be used against them in another proceeding, except to prove perjury or that they were lying under oath in court.





Flightcraft aids college expansion

One of the Okanagan’s best-known businesses has thrown its support behind the campaign to expand and renovate the trades training complex at Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus.

Barry Lapointe, CEO and Chairman of Kelowna Flightcraft, has made a $500,000 donation to the Bright Horizons Building for Skills fundraising campaign that will help complete the $33-million project.

“I believe that people who have done well in this region should give back,” says Lapointe. “And we feel strongly about supporting post-secondary education.”

Lapointe’s donation to Okanagan College was acknowledged this week by Premier Christy Clark, area MLAs Norm Letnick and Steve Thomson, and several representatives of Okanagan College and the Okanagan College Foundation at Flightcraft’s airport hangar, where a class of Aircraft Maintenance Engineering students were nearing completion of their course.

“Barry sees what’s coming: a shortage of skilled labour, and a tremendous opportunity for trained people,” says Premier Clark.

“He has always supported the creation of more education and career opportunities in the Okanagan, culminating in this generous donation.”

Lapointe’s donation brings the $7 million campaign up over the $3 million mark. The money raised will help complete and equip the trades complex and create support for students who take programs there.

The province has contributed $28 million to the project.

The building and renovation project is expected to be completed by spring 2016.

Approximately 5,100 square metres of shops and classes will be renovated and an additional 5,500 square metres of shops, classroom and student space is being constructed along KLO Road.

The complex will accommodate approximately 2,600 students annually in a range of trades programs.

“Barry’s support is a key donation for the campaign,” explains campaign chair Dennis Gabelhouse. “Industry support, from people like Barry, from the automotive industry, from companies like Westwood Electric sends a message to would-be tradespeople that validates their career choices.”

Okanagan College is the second-largest trades training institution in BC.



Polar bear promise for United Way

An executive at UBCO has vowed to jump into Okanagan Lake if the campus reaches its campaign goal with the United Way before the end of the year.

The campus has raised $34,000 since Oct. 6 and hopes to hit its goal of $57,000 by the end of 2014.

Michael Shakespeare, Associate Vice-President of Finance and Operations at the school says he hopes the polar dip will bring attention to work done by the United Way and its 39 funded partners in the Okanagan.

“UBC Okanagan, its faculty, staff and students, invest each year in the hopes of making a lasting difference in our community,” he says.

This isn’t the first time Shakespeare has taken part in a campaign for the United Way; he has previously auctioned off a highly sought-after UBCO parking pass.

The United Way kicked off a campaign in September with the hopes of raising $1.5 million, but it is still less than halfway to that goal.

More information can be found here.



Busy days ahead for YLW

The Kelowna Airport is expected to be busier than ever this holiday season, with YLW expecting more than 100,000 guests to move through their doors over the next two weeks.

Beginning this weekend, and during the busiest travel days of the year (Dec. 21, 22, 28, 29 and Jan. 4, 5) the airport anticipates over 7,500 people flying in and out of Kelowna.

The airport has 2,600 parking stalls, but they expect to reach full capacity during this time and suggest drivers consider alternative ways to get to the airport such as taxi and limousine services, airport shuttles, transit, or friends and family.

The terminal building opens at 3:30 a.m. with check-in counters, pre-board screening and food services available at 4 a.m.

Passengers are reminded to arrive at the airport with plenty of time to spare and its recommended to check-in and drop off baggage for domestic flights at least 90 minutes before boarding time, and at least two hours for flights to the US and Mexico.

Holiday travel tips can be found here and up-to-date information on arrivals and departures can be found here.



Bottle drive helps food bank

A group of 20 generous kids from the Claro Learning Centre are working hard this month collecting bottles for the Kelowna Food Bank.

The kids were tasked with getting local businesses on board to donate their empties for the good cause.

“Initially the kids had to learn a little about it...about what the Kelowna Food Bank is about and who they support, and about what a bottle drive really means,” explains Mentor Sherri-Ann Rast with Claro, a centre for children with learning disabilities. 

“Then they all made posters and sent them out to businesses themselves, talked to them, explained the idea and we’ve just been going weekly to pick up the bottles from all the businesses.”

Nearly a dozen locations around town signed on and a group of the volunteers visit the multiple locations almost daily.

“It was interesting because everybody was willing to give us bottles and it was pretty cool actually,” says 15-year-old Madison St. Pierre. “It is Christmas and everybody need something to be happy about at Christmas.”

“It is really fun,” adds 9-year-old Ella Rolston.

Rast says the centre works on teaching kids about giving back and the impact they can have.

“It is really important for us to teach the kids how to give back to their community and to be involved in their community and know what that means,” says Rast. “Sometimes we get isolated and don’t look outside, so it is important to teach them when they are young.”

The numbers for this year haven’t been tallied yet but last year the group was able to raise about $500 for the Kelowna Food Bank.

“We’re so proud of them, they’ve done an awesome job,” adds Rast. “Everything from learning how to speak in public to sorting things and being in uncomfortable and loud environments. They’ve done fantastic.”

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New beer fest on tap for May

Get your growlers, a new beer festival could be coming to Kelowna this Spring.

The Great Okanagan Beer Festival is the brainchild of the Gibbons Hospitality Group which has organized the Whistler Beer Festival for the past two years. 

The proposed location is Waterfront Park near the Delta Grand Hotel and the idea is to have a craft beer festival that celebrates beer while showcasing local businesses. 

"We try and tie in local bars and restaurants to use their locations for programming and events," said Gibbons Hospitality festival and events planner Liam Peyton. "We're not one of those festivals that comes through town and takes a bunch of money and leaves."

Peyton just finished a tour of Kelowna on Monday and Tuesday where he met with the city, the tourism board and stakeholders within Kelowna.

A tentative date has been set for May 7 to 9. Peyton envisions a couple of days of beer and food pairing events, cask events and beer seminars hosted at local bars and restaurants before the actual beer festival which he hopes can be held in Waterfront Park on Saturday May 9.

He said local stakeholders have been enthusiastic so far.

"Just talking with some of the bar owners, they said two days wasn't enough. They were talking about a week of beer events."

Chad Douglas at Tourism Kelowna said the Okanagan already does wine promotion really well, but that "beer is another piece of the puzzle."

"I just happened to read about it in BC Business that the Whistler Beer festival was looking to expand to other cities," he said. "Interest in beer is exploding locally and I just thought 'what an opportunity to get craft beer into Kelowna at a good time of year.'" 

Steve Caroll co-owner of the Train Station Pub and the Mission Taphouse said festivals are always good for business.

"It's absolutely a positive for us," he said. "Just exposing more people to craft beer - [At the Train Station Pub] We carry 10 lines of craft beer and people definitely continue after the beer festival which typically close down a bit earlier."

Peyton said the next step is another meeting in early February to sit down with RCMP, the liquor board and the city's Outdoor Events Committee.

"We're facing zero resistance right now," he said. "Things are looking extremely positive. And a lot of people are getting really excited on social media as well."

A Facebook page has been set up for the festival and a website is soon to follow.

Peyton said they are looking for community partners to "help make the festival more than one tasting event," and to contact him at [email protected]



Foerster guilty in assaults

Matthew Foerster has pleaded guilty to charges in connection to two other attacks in the Okanagan.

The 28-year-old man is already serving a life sentence in prison, with no possibility of parole for 25 years, after being found guilty of murdering Armstrong teen Taylor Van Diest in 2011.

These new charges stem from a home invasion in Cherryville in 2004 when he broke into the home and attacked a 19-year-old woman, and an incident in 2005 at the Garden of Eden in Kelowna, when he forced himself on a sex trade worker while holding a knife to her throat.

The now 29-year-old Cherryville victim (who has since married, changed her family name and moved) wept as she read a victim impact statement to the court before sentencing. 

"On the day I was attacked, I woke up and blood was coming from my head," she said. "I've never been so scared in my life."

The woman said after the attack she was rushed to hospital with temporary hearing loss in one ear and was suffering from confusion, dizziness and emotional trauma.

"I didn't trust anyone in Lumby or Cherryville," she said. "I was forced to move on knowing he was on the streets. I'll never feel the same about my family home."

Foerster, who looks skinnier after starting his 25-years of 21-hour per day lockup, kept his eyes downcast and showed little reaction during the reading of the informations, victim's statement and sentencing. 

Foerster was sentenced to six years on each count, to be served concurrently. He is also required to give a DNA sample, must have no contact with either victim, will have a lifetime firearms ban and will be placed on the sexual offender registry for life.

In his decision, Justice Mark Takahashi said mitigating factors were Foerster's young age at the time, his lack of a criminal record at the time of the crimes and that he pleaded guilty thus bypassing the need for a trial.

The victim's mother Denise Walterhouse said she would like to see the justice system move away from concurrent sentencing.

"He should be put away for life, not 25 years," she said. "He savagely beat women and destroyed the life of a young girl who was 18-years-old. . . He's killed one - she's lost her life. To me, it's not a fair justice system."

Foerster is currently appealing his conviction in the Van Diest murder, with an application filed with the Court of Appeal in September.

Crown counsel Iain Currie said the sentence had to be concurrent because of Canadian law. 

"The criminal code says that you can't have a consecutive sentence to a life sentence, which is what Mr. Foerster is presently serving; life without possibility of parole for 25 years."

If that conviction is upheld, these new guilty pleas and prison sentences will have no impact on his current situation, as he is not eligible for parole on the murder charge until 2039.



TD bank robbed

The TD Canada Trust on Ellis Street was robbed Tuesday evening.

Kelowna police are looking for a 31-year-old man, who is also wanted on an unrelated Canada-wide warrant.

According to witnesses, police say a lone male entered the bank around 5:30 p.m. and approached a teller, demanding money.

The suspect then fled northbound on Ellis with an undisclosed amount of cash.

He has been identified as Rory Richard Feeney, who is currently wanted for breaching his parole.

Feeney is described as:

  • Caucasian male;
  • 31 years;
  • approximately 6'2";
  • approximately 200 lb;
  • Short brown hair, balding;
  • Green eyes

No weapon was produced during the robbery and no one was injured.



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