Champion of the people

Laurel Burnham is pictured at the 2017 Seedy Saturday, which she organized.

A champion for community markets has died.

Laurel Burnham lost a lengthy and courageous battle with cancer, Tuesday.

Burnham was well known in the community for managing the Downtown Penticton Association’s market for seven years and coordinating the city’s Canada Day events for 21 years.

“Laurel firmly believed in the entrepreneurial spirit she saw in people,” former DPA executive director Barb Haynes said. “She was an advocate for farmers, crafters and makers and whole-heartedly supported their efforts.

“She lived authentically and thoughtfully often sharing her latest rose blooms, cookies she discovered or seeds she was going to sow or trade. We will miss her.”

More recently, Burham managed community markets in Naramata and Summerland, coordinated Seedy Saturdays, Fix-It cafes and a large Christmas market at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre.

“I have always loved the country fair, informal atmosphere of outdoor markets. I love the colour and sounds and car-free spaces where people can gather... not to mention the food,” she said in a 2017 interview.

Her volunteer work extended to numerous recycling, social and environmental causes, recently appearing on stage in a version of “The Vagina Monologues” for the South Okanagan Women in Needs Society.

Outspoken at times on civic issues, she addressed this in her 2017 interview with The Herald.

“I would make a lousy politician as I don’t have a hidden agenda,” she said. “People who live singularly creative lives are always a bit of a target.”

Born in New Westminster, she moved to Penticton in 1987 to set up Sun Village Lodge. She founded Penticton’s first community garden.

She is survived by her husband Daryl Oneill and their blended family of three children.