Summerland visitors encouraged to explore the historical and creative side of this unique area

Full steam into history & art

"Stay and Savour Summerland” is a three-part series of stories highlighting everything to savour and explore in this unique community, produced in partnership with the Summerland Chamber of Commerce and Visit Summerland.

We all know Summerland is a go-to destination for wine, orchards and scenery, but the district also has many layers of creativity, quirkiness and history that are ready to be explored.

The arts have long held an important place in the heart of Summerland. The Summerland Arts Council, which operates a gallery and spearheads many public art programs, is always busy finding ways to promote appreciation of art in the community, with the overarching goal of "making Summerland a more beautiful place."

This year, they have put out a call for artists to submit designs for the 2021 banner program, which adorn the town. Artists are invited to submit a camera-ready full-colour design for a 30" by 60" banner, under the theme of "Diversity and Inclusion."

The banners are a chance for local artists to see their work in public places, and for locals and visitors alike to enjoy the creativity of the community.

While the art gallery is closed to the public in person, they have taken their permanent collection online during COVID-19, as a way to enjoy the artistic talents of Summerlanders from the safety of home.

"Summerland’s long and rich history of the visual arts dates from the early 1950s with the founding of the Summerland Art Club, to the 1990s with the establishment of the Summerland Community Arts Council," the council says.

"The collection currently holds 42 works in several media, with the most recent additions from [local artists] Elaine Watts and Marcia Stacy."

Summerland's connection to its artistic side culminates each year with the Ryga Festival, celebrating the life and works of longtime local resident before his death George Ryga, lauded by many as one of Canada's greatest playwrights, novelists and poets.

Each summer, the festival celebrates his love of language, learning and expression through performances, readings and workshops. Events include theatre, music and spoken word.

While the 2020 event had to go online due to the pandemic, plans are in place for a 2021 return Aug. 13-22, public health orders permitting. It's the perfect time to visit Summerland for a taste of all the local arts community has to offer.

And a deep tie to the arts isn't the only thing that makes Summerland unique. Dive into its rich and quirky history, stretching back to 1902 when it was founded, although not incorporated until 1906.

The Summerland Museum and Archives has been closed since November due to COVID-19, out of an abundance of caution, but they have not stopped interacting with community members interested in the history of the region.

Follow them on Facebook and Instagram for their Throwback Thursday series, highlighting a moment and photo each week. Most recently, on March 25, they shared a photo from 1932 of a man snowshoeing on a snowy Nickel Plate Road, providing a fascinating glimpse back in time.

And be sure to check out their online resources, including old newspaper issues and photographs, to get your fill of Summerland history until the museum is able to re-open to the public in person.

Another piece of the past is the Kettle Valley Steam Railway, the only preserved portion of the historic railway built between 1910 and 1915 as a "Coast to Kootenay" connection.

Visit the 10-mile track and soak in the sweeping views between Faulder and Trout Creek across canyons on a trestle bridge, all from the comfort of a real restored steam locomotive from 1912. It's the ultimate back-in-time experience for a history buff.

KVR Railway business manager Tasandra Crozier said that while COVID-19 is a fly in the ointment, it's full steam ahead for the summer at the moment.

"We're just waiting and hoping," Crozier explained. "If all goes as planned, we will be up and running on the May long weekend for our regular tours."

Crozier said they won't be planning any special events or activities just yet until the COVID-19 chips fall where they may, and the train will be riding at half capacity.

Until the rides start again, the train itself spends most of its time in the shop so it is not always available for visitors to take a look at, but the gift shop will be reopening soon, which offers plenty for growing or already grown history enthusiasts to check out and take home. And Crozier said guests are always welcome to call ahead and see if the train is parked outside to take an up-close peek at.

And ahead of the season, they are launching gift cards available for purchase online, to help boost the non-profit society after a difficult year.

"We are hoping to get those up and running within the next week, and of course are always greatly appreciative of any donations," Crozier said.

Memberships, which come with perks like free a free ride on the train and 15 per cent off in the gift shop, are also always available.

Whether it is art or history you seek, you'll find it in Summerland.

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