As we continue to recover from the impacts of the pandemic, this summer has been busy and full of events, with the help of investments from our government.
I spent much of the summer touring the Okanagan and central interior, and like many of you, visited fairs, festivals and events. It felt so good to be back in communities, seeing people connecting with friends and families, and enjoying some of the best events and entertainment that B.C. has to offer.
Pandemic recovery has been top of mind for British Columbians, especially those working in the arts and culture sector and the tourism industry. That’s why last year, we created a relief grant program to support arts, culture, sports, and community celebrations across the province, giving out nearly $30 million through one-time grants to eligible event organizers.
The BC Fairs, Festivals, and Event Recovery Grants went to more than 680 events in B.C., in 134 different communities. We know that event organizers needed immediate recovery support, not loans or incentives. This way, event organizers could keep their workers employed, and return to hosting the community events that we all look forward to each year. Our government took action to support these groups and ensure that the events you have missed because of the pandemic could come back safely.
The Thompson Okanagan region was home to 131 of these events. Some of my favourite events included the Peak Pride Festival, Lumby Days Family Festival, Armstrong IPE and the Okanagan Military Tattoo. One thing that all these events have in common is that they wouldn’t be possible without dedicated organizers, staff teams, and volunteers. Thank you to everyone that was involved in bringing back some of these summer events!
Other events across the Okanagan, like the Clinton May Ball Dance and Rodeo, the Kelowna Car Show, the Kelowna Pride Festival, Merritt Rockin’ River Fest or the Ignite the Arts Festival show that there were events for everyone’s interests this summer.
Festivals, fairs, and events are so much more than just a concert, market, or community day. They are community hubs that bring people together, connect us with our neighbours, and make each community in B.C. unique. We also know that they have a positive impact on people’s mental health, especially after two years of reducing our social contacts, and they give a significant boost to the surrounding local businesses as people stop to shop and eat on their way to or from an event.
The restaurant industry, retail industry, and other tourism sectors have seen huge benefits as well, as people have travelled across B.C. to attend fairs and festivals.
It has been wonderful to see people out with their friends, families, and neighbours, enjoying these events. Fairs and festivals give us the opportunity to showcase our beautiful landscapes, amazing resources, talented people, and community strength.
As your MLA, it has been both an honour and a pleasure being able to enjoy these events with you, and I look forward to many more in the future!