Festivals Kelowna has successful year despite COVID-19 pandemic

Successful despite pandemic

While COVID-19 caused Canada Day celebrations (and others) to be cancelled, Festivals Kelowna was able to modify its other programs to continue to bring arts and culture to the community. 

Parks Alive is a long-standing tradition with performances six days a week. However, in response to guidelines against gatherings, the team decided to take the show on the road with Parks Alive: On Tour. 

“If you could picture a parade float, we put a band on the back of a float and went to seven different neighbourhoods throughout our community and played four different streets each evening,” explains Renata Mills, executive director for Festivals Kelowna. 

“People were able to stay in their family bubbles, maybe in their front yard, their driveways and enjoy live music where we brought the bands to the people as opposed to them coming to the parks.”

They also hosted live music on the 400-block of Bernard Avenue while the pedestrian project took place this summer.

“We had concerts on Saturday and Sunday so that when people were already down experiencing the closure we can enhance that experience,” says Mills, adding they they would go onto add Tuesday evenings partway through August in response to demand.

With the Bernard Avenue and float concerts they were able to perform four days a week, compared to their usual of six days.

There was a limit on the number of buskers involved in this year’s program, but were pleasantly surprised with the youth that were involved. 

“When we generally have 60-75 people in the program, there was only 30 this year," explains Grace Oswald, program director for Festivals Kelowna. "(The) cool thing about this year’s program with buskers is that we had a lot of youth — about half of our buskers this year are under the age of 18.”

“I don’t know if that’s because they weren’t in school in the spring... but it was really cool to have lots of kids.”

The piano program continued with extra sanitization, bringing the public together around the works of art.

Mills says in a normal year arts and culture enhances your life experience, but during the pandemic it was even more important this year. Oswald says it’s about providing an outlet during tough times. 

“People’s mental health needs music and art … at the end of the day that’s what it really comes down to people have been feeling lonely and when we went to people’s communities and we’re on their streets .. they got to see their neighbours for the first time in a long time.”

They’re currently working with the City of Kelowna on a New Year’s Eve celebration; typically there are around 6,000 people who come to celebrate at Stuart Park so they’re figuring out a way to celebrate the new year.

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