Wednesday, October 22nd11.6°C
Ripe With Surprises

Happy Thanksgiving!

This time of the year is simply magic in Kelowna. The leaves are changing colour, the Farmers’ Market and fruit stands are still stocked full of freshly harvested produce, and the crispness in the air feels refreshing on our Kelowna hiking trails.

Many of us have Thanksgiving Monday off and have turned our sights away from the kitchen (that’s what leftovers are for!) and toward stretching that Thanksgiving weekend out further to enjoy it with family and friends. If you have little ones at home, here’s a wonderful fall farm activity that deserves a spot on your calendar.

McMillan Farms is a family-run farm in East Kelowna just teaming with great activities for kids. And with their impressive pumpkin patch, you can pick your own pumpkin to carve up for Halloween! Located just off Spiers Rd, this 110-acre family farm even brings out the kid in the adults who visit. Regularly scheduled hay rides take place daily, giving families a peak of some gorgeous farm scenery, farm animals, and often an array of wildlife.

One of my favourite things about McMillan Farms is their 12-foot tall, 3 acre corn maze. It is really quite astounding and extensive! For smaller kids, there is also a hay maze, allowing parents to maintain an eye on their little adventurers throughout their time in the maze.

And for families who get snacky, there’s the Waffelicious concession stand at McMillan Farms where you can get hot chocolate and various snacks to hit the spot. Admission to the farm is free, and small admission fees apply to the activities. A Family Fun Pack is available at $25 for a family of 5 to play in the corn maze, take a hay ride, and try their hand at the pumpkin sling shot, or select individual activities you’d like to do, each with a nominal admission fee. McMillan Farms is open to the public until October 31.


Fall Wine Festival in focus

Early October is always an exciting time in Kelowna and throughout the Okanagan Valley. It’s a time when the grape harvest is in full swing, wineries are in full action mode, and the Fall Okanagan Wine Festival takes place. This year, the dates for the Fall Okanagan Wine Festival are October 1 through 11, and is expected to draw 10,000 event-goers who can enjoy over 125 events over the 10 day period.

Here are just a few events to keep on your radar:

BC Wine Awards – Taking place on October 1 at the Laurel Packinghouse in Kelowna (7 p.m. to 9 p.m.), this is the official kick-off to the Fall Okanagan Wine Festival. It’s an opportunity to be among the 100 people who will be the first to learn about the wineries who will win the BC Wine Awards this year, taste these amazing wines, and to rub elbows with winemakers and viticulturists who are raising the bar for our wine industry. This is a Get Home Safe event, sponsored by BC Liquor Stores and Valley First Insurance, meaning that taxi service back home is free.

Blind Wine and Cheese Soirée – Set at the elegant Manteo Resort, this event on October 8 is a blast for your tastebuds. Different Okanagan wines will be poured with covered labels, and unique cheeses from Dairy Farmers of Canada will be served, also blind. Think you’re a hopeless case when it comes to guessing wines and cheeses? Hey, they have a prize for both the best guess and also the worst, so the playing field is definitely leveled. This is also a Get Home Safe event, sponsored by BC Liquor Stores and Valley First Insurance.

St Hubertus & Oak Bay Estate Winery Harvest Lunch – Fancy a meal in the vineyard? Here is a fun lunch event that takes place on October 4 and again on October 11 at St. Hubertus Winery. The meal, designed by a local chef and paired with their own wines, will be served at a beautifully set long table under a white marquee in the vineyard.

Bubbly Bootcamp – This is sure to get the competitive spirit going - so playful that you won’t even notice how much you’re learning! This October 9 evening event (5 p.m. to 7 p.m.) at Summerhill Pyramid Winery starts with a detailed overview of sparkling wine production & dosage tasting, then guests will be able to disgorge their very own bottle of sparkling wine under the guidance of winemaker Eric von Krosigk. Follow this up by a paired tasting of Summerhill's award-winning sparkling wine and organic appetizers, and you have a winning combination.

For a full round-up of events taking place all around the valley, check out the Okanagan Wine Festivals website. Cheers!

Farmer Appreciation Week

All last week, Tourism Kelowna was sharing tweets and Facebook posts in appreciation of farmers. The occasion was the September 8 through 15 Farmer Appreciation Week, a time for us to reflect on the vital work and contribution to our community that farmers undertake.

Although today is the final day of the official appreciation week, it’s essential to keep the spirit of the week alive throughout the rest of the year. There are several ways to do this in Kelowna. One of the best ways to appreciate the work and care that goes into farming is to take the time to visit a local farm that is open to the public. There are several in Kelowna, which accounts for the popular Farm to Table brochure offered by Tourism Kelowna. The brochure is available both in print and online, as well as a detailed description of the participating businesses on our Farm to Table webpage. Part of the experience is to see local farm ingredients incorporated into the beautiful dishes at local restaurants. Several restaurants participate in Tourism Kelowna’s Farm to Table program. Just check out the webpage or online brochure to find out which ones, and then show your support for local farmers by supporting the restaurants who work with them.

Another great way to connect with our local farmers is to visit the Kelowna Farmers’ and Crafters’ Market on Wednesday and Saturday mornings at the corner of Springfield and Dilworth, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. At this time of the year you’ll find over 150 stands teaming with late summer/early fall vegetables and fruit. If you love cooking with local produce or preserving the intense flavours of summer in jars to enjoy later in the year, you’ll love a visit to our farmers’ market. Of the 125+ farmers’ markets in BC, you’ll be proud to know that Kelowna’s is one of the largest.

You can also buy produce directly from a local farm. Did you know that BC has almost 20,000 farm operations, and that 98% of them are family farms (Statistics Canada, 2011)? Just last week, our staff at Tourism Kelowna picked up 200 lbs of local pears from Gambell Farms. We spent 2 delightful evenings canning the pears and will get to enjoy the flavours in the colder months, when we can all use a little reminder of the tastes of summer.

No matter how or when you choose to mark Farmer Appreciation Week, the important thing is that you take a moment to appreciate the abundance of where we live, and the care that goes into the amazing produce we have access to. It’s in our backyard to celebrate – let’s make sure to mark the occasion.


Win a trip to Iceland!

There’s something special about sculpture exhibits. The ability to walk around a piece of art work and to admire it from each perspective adds a dimension to exhibits, a personal note. This has been the prevailing mood at Mission Hill Family Estate the last few times I’ve been there, with the current sculpture exhibit throughout the winery’s grounds. Icelandic artist Steinunn Thórarinsdóttir’s life-size sculptures are on display at Mission Hill until this October. They are placed in thoughtful areas throughout the winery’s grounds, both indoors and outdoors, beginning with 2 “wall climbers” positioned on the external wall of the winery as you enter through the gates, signaling that there are further life-size surprises inside.

I’ve been there several times this summer, and on each visit I’ve seen winery guests posing with the sculptures: kneeling with the two above the amphitheater, sitting by the one gazing into the water fountain, or in the barrel cellar, sitting with one in the shadows on the landing. In each case the sculptures have intrigued guests to interact in some way. They are earthy and ethereal, ghostly and visceral.

In celebration of this exhibit, Mission Hill is partnering with Icelandair for a social media photo contest. From August 21 to September 30, 2014 guests visiting Mission Hill can capture the beauty of the ‘Encounters with Iceland’ exhibit by sharing their photos of the sculptures of Steinunn Thórarinsdóttir through Facebook for a chance to win two complimentary round-trip tickets to Iceland courtesy of Icelandair. For complete contest details, visit the Mission Hill website at

With more than 40 of Steinunn Thórarinsdóttir's exhibited at Mission Hill through to October 2014, the photo opportunities are endless. Guests are encouraged to select images that depict the sculptures surrounded by the dynamic architecture of the winery and the beauty of the natural surroundings.

Don’t miss this chance to enjoy the beautiful sculptures on display at Mission Hill until October, to taste the portfolio of Mission Hill’s wines, and to browse in their bustling gift shop. It’s a must-visit exhibit this summer, punctuated by a sense of discovery and surprise when you find another sculpture around each corner. Who knows, maybe your beautifully composed photograph will win you a pair of tickets to Iceland… where no doubt there will be many more wonderful surprises to be discovered around each corner!

Read more Ripe with Surprises articles


About the Author

Catherine is the Media Relations Manager for Tourism Kelowna and is dedicated to building Kelowna's intrigue as a travel destination through her work with the travel media. In her role she is fortunate to find out about Kelowna's many secret gems attractions, activities, and interesting people that are a surprise for travel media, tourists, and even for residents. This column gives her the chance to share with you the many things that make Kelowna unique and unforgettable so that you can glean ideas of places to visit or take guests when they come to town.

For more information visit Tourism Kelowna's blog at
[email protected]

or, on Twitter at:  @TKCatherine and @Tourism_Kelowna

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.

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