Okanagan Wine Festivals
Vernon and the Thompson-Okanagan region is wine country: Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. Four wine festivals during the year mix wine tours, wine tasting and wine seminars with great entertainment and fabulous restaurant cuisine. wineries, restaurants and resorts tease drooling senses with tastes and aromas that come straight from the vine and stir the Soul. Buds come out in May at the Okanagan Spring Wine Festival and so do wine lovers who wish to celebrate over fine wine and culinary tours. Gourmet meals fill hungry bellies on a hot August week-end of arts, music and other activities at Silver Star Mountain Resort during the Okanagan Summer Wine Festival. Sipping a glass of Okanagan wine is just a divine way to celebrate grape harvest while enjoying the Okanagan Fall Wine Festival’s food and festive atmosphere. The Winter air is fresh high atop sunny peaks while the Icewine is crisp and refreshing at the annual Okanagan Icewine Festival that is full of eating, education and snowy recreation.
Annual Winter Carnival
Snow bunnies have two ways to enjoy the snow every February: ski down powder-packed hills or enter the Annual Winter Carnival’s snow sculpting competition. School kids may also try sculpting an ice hotel, castle or anything else that comes to mind. Participating in snowshoeing tours and free dance lessons are two ways for Winter lovers to keep their toes warm and have some fun. Each year, a new ‘Queen Silver Star’ is crowned, and that isn’t the winner of the carnival’s ‘over the hill’ downhill ski event for ‘young at heart’ ski champions. Attendees who sample the many fine Okanagan wines or attend the dinner theatre and comedy show may become a little tipsy at Vernon's Annual Winter Carnival.
Vernon & District Historica Heritage Fair
Learning about history can be fun, and that’s the objective of the Vernon & District Historica Heritage Fair. Local elementary and secondary students can research an event or hero and then create a display that is showcased at the two-day fair. The event or person may be unique to Vernon’s history or one of importance to Canada as a whole. Students may instead choose to research a specific historical site such as Vernon’s first hotel or restaurant and explain its role in the development of the community. Family, friends and any interested observers will enjoy the creative exhibits: judges select winning projects that may then be entered in the Okanagan Regional Fair held in Kelowna.
Shoparama Spring & Winter Markets
The Shoparama Spring & Winter markets provide an opportunity for bargain hunters to go shopping some place different from a mall, plaza, department store, or boutique. There are no brand names here: the market features crafts, baked-goods and unique products made by local entrepreneurs and home-based businesses. Food, entertainment and door prizes also make this an enjoyable event and an attraction worth visiting while in Vernon.
For three days each June, there’s some major creative chaos to explore at western Canada’s largest craft sale in Vernon. There is no need to dig for opals here, since plenty of jewelry and earrings are on display and for sale at a reasonable price. Products on display from over 200 artisans and crafters will make it easy to find a funky porcelain bowl, matching handbag or handmade doll to take home. The Heritage street murals are not for sale, but many forms of interesting art can be found amongst the creative chaos. This event is held in the Vernon Recreation Centre which is a major indoor recreation complex in Vernon.
Rare Earth Jazz Festival
Wooden cutlery and food containers made from corn starch are two things that the average restaurant or hotel likely doesn’t have. The festival is at the same time a celebration of music, food and all that can be done to protect the earth’s environment. Each year, Rare Earth feeds attendees a menu of great Jazz and Blues performed in Italian, Cuban, French, and Calypso to name a few. It’s not Woodstock, however, this Summer event is held outdoors on a large grassy area under the warm Okanagan Sun. Listening to a great line-up of Canadian artists while sipping beer from a cup made of corn is just one of the Rare Earth Jazz Festival's many unique features.
Festival of Crafts
The two-day Festival of Crafts held in November isn’t your average shopping experience. Over 100 vendors from the Kootenays, Lower Mainland and Alberta sell homemade crafts just in time for Christmas. Booth after booth of craft vendors provides a trade show-like atmosphere much different from a stroll through a mall or trip to the plaza. There may be no wine or golf clubs for sale, but the Festival of Crafts is definitely the place to buy natural soap or Scottish shortbread cookies.
Summer is a Funtastic four days of soccer, slo-pitch and lawn bowling at Vernon’s annual Funtastic sports festival. Teams of young and old, male and female, athletes compete in friendly competition at two of Vernon’s major parks, MacDonald Park and Marshall Fields. A game of slo-pitch provides a festive environment for those wishing to test their hand-eye coordination with a bat rather than a golf putter. Navigating the greens in a lawn bowling tournament involves all of the strategy of golf but takes less energy than is required to walk a long golf course. Teams may stay at a Vernon hotel or resort and have a Funtastic time in the Summer.
Okanagan Life Magazine readers ranked Vernon’s Sunshine Festival the second best community event in the North Okanagan in 2008. Attending this attraction is a great way for the whole family to celebrate on the last Saturday before Father’s Day. For this one day, downtown Vernon turns into a giant sidewalk sale featuring merchandise from the city’s many boutique shops. Mini-golf, face painting and other activities keep children occupied so parents can sit and relax at a restaurant patio. Live entertainment, magicians and clowns also keep the day a festive one for the whole family. No doubt, many Okanagan Life readers are some of the approximately 12,000 people who attend the largest street fair/sidewalk sale in the North Okanagan each year.
Dragon Boat Races & Festival
The annual Dragon Boat Race & Festival is colourful, fun and a great way to celebrate China’s culture and heritage for three days in the Summer. Teams of paddlers stroke to the rhythmic beat of drums and race to power Chinese-decorated boats across the finish line. Each boat is dressed with a Chinese Dragon head and tail in keeping with the legacy of these races that began in China over 2000 years ago. Spectators line Kalamalka Lake to cheer teams from across western Canada as they compete to reach the finish line of courses 200, 500 and 1000 metres or more in length. Many of these racers no doubt require the comfort of a hot tub and soft hotel room bed at the end of a long day of racing in the hot Okanagan Sun.
Komasket Music Festival
There’s no need to stay at a hotel when attending the Komasket Music Festival in Vernon, just rent a tipi instead and camp in Komasket Park. Since 2002, this festival has been a showcase of First Nations music, dance, arts and culture. Drumming, dancing and Yoga workshops are part of this cultural celebration that takes place on the west side of beautiful Lake Okanagan near Vernon. The festival’s 32-hours of live music is headlined by soul, funk, rock and other hip independent artists from around the globe whose CD may or may not be available at the local music store.