Joel Plaskett takes the Vernon Performing Arts Centre stage Sept. 10 with guest Mo Kenney. (Contributed)

Grants boost Vernon theatre ahead of season start

Joel Plaskett kicks off the SPOTLIGHT series, followed by Free Theatre Night

The Vernon & District Performing Arts Centre (VDPAC) has received a $55,000 grant from Canadian Heritage under a special Re-Engaging Audiences Fund (REAF) for Professional Arts Presentations Organizations federal program.

VDPAC will use a majority of REAF funds for a regional direct-mail campaign to promote the return of its first full SPOTLIGHT season since March 2020, which opens with the Juno Award-winning Joel Plaskett Emergency concert (with guest Mo Kenney) on Sept. 10. Plaskett’s stop is part of a cross-Canada tour promoting his latest album, 44, his most detailed musical weave yet. He is joined by special gues Mo Kenney.

“Our 2022-23 SPOTLIGHT Season brochure can now be direct-mailed to 40,000 homes, apartments and businesses all over the North Okanagan and south through Lake Country,” said VDPAC’s executive director Jim Harding. “This is a special, one-time initiative to re-engage with our audiences, sponsors and supporters as we re-start—and to connect with newcomers to our local and regional community.”

READ MORE: SPOTLIGHT series returns to Vernon Performing Arts Centre

Tourism Vernon has also approved a $5,000 Co-Op marketing grant in support of the campaign to help reach and attract audiences from outside Greater Vernon. VDPAC will also be partnering with local accommodations and restaurants with special discounts for ticket-holders coming to Vernon for performances this season.

Region-wide direct mail is only one objective of VDPAC’s REAF project: dubbed the Audience Re-Engagement Campaign and described as “an integrated regional marketing and community engagement campaign to help regain public confidence and their return to live performance.” VDPAC will also introduce a block tickets option for sponsoring businesses as goodwill gifts for clients and staff; will promote new community partnerships with area youth performing arts groups; will renew its customized group promotions with local community organizations; and will use part of REAF funds for the 2nd annual North Okanagan Children’s Festival in March 2023.

With provincial funding last December, VDPAC experimented with a direct mail campaign to 21,000 Greater Vernon homes-and-businesses only; to promote the limited spring 2022 SPOTLIGHT season of re-scheduled shows from 2020-21.

“It was also a test project in anticipation of the return of a full SPOTLIGHT season this fall,” said Harding, “But we were thrilled with the number of newcomers who had never been to the Performing Arts Centre before, had only heard about it, or didn’t know it was here! So this was very encouraging as the best way to reach our wider regional community.

“Without the REAF and Tourism Vernon funding we would not be able to afford a region-wide initiative,” continues Harding.

VDPAC will also host its second-ever Free Night in the Theatre Sept. 14 at 7:30 p.m. for a sneak preview of the 2022-23 SPOTLIGHT season, including video clips, highlights and brief interviews with this season’s special guest artists. Free tickets can be claimed online at, at the Ticket Seller box office or by calling 250-549-SHOW (7469).

READ MORE: Award-winning Canadian comedian coming back to Vernon


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