It's showtime

Peachfest guests watch mini-movies on the big screen at the 2015 festival.

One of Canada’s largest free family festivals is still a go for this summer.

“We’re proceeding with planning full-speed ahead,” Penticton Peach Festival president Don Kendall said Thursday.

Penticton’s signature event is scheduled to run Aug.5-9, offering five days of entertainment that typically attracts thousands of people to Okanagan Lake Park. At present, however, gatherings of more than 50 people have been outlawed by the provincial health officer as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our first priority, obviously, is health and safety, so we’d never go ahead if we thought there were safety concerns, but I’ve had dozens of people say to me, ‘What an incredible boon it could be if we could hold Peachfest,” said Kendall.

He and the Peachfest board will do a “really solid assessment” after talking with city and health officials in May, but a final decision on the event’s status isn’t required until June at the latest.

“If we can do it,” said Kendall, “it might be the most important one in the 73 years of Peachfest.”

A study conducted in 2019 pegged Peachfest’s annual economic impact at $3.6 million, largely on the strength of 14,000 out-of-town guests and 23 full-time-equivalent jobs the event supports.

Meanwhile, the Interior Provincial Exhibition, which attracts thousands of people to Armstrong each September, is still on, too.

“We are extremely hopeful the fair will go on. We are monitoring this on a daily/weekly basis at this point,” general manager Yvonne Paulson said in a note to ticketholders Thursday.

She also attached a letter she wrote on behalf of the Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions calling on the federal government to help the shows go on.

“We are asking for funding to assist with the 100-plus fairs directly impacted at this point by cancellation of their events,” wrote Paulson.

“There are 700 fairs in Canada that are at risk if we have to cancel all fairs this year. Some may be able to rebound and others will close forever. This is very sad and there are fairs like us that have been around for 100 years or more.”